Host Homes and Unhoused LGBTQ+ Youth

Delaware’s LGBTQ+ Community has made significant strides in recent years, but housing instability among LGBTQ+ Youth remains a concern. Host Home programs offer one possible solution our state is exploring.

In one national survey of LGBTQ+ Youth aged 13-24 conducted by the Trevor Project, 28% of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability at some point in their young lives. LGBTQ_ Youth sometimes face rejection, discrimination, and misunderstanding from their families, causing them to become homeless or lack stable housing options. Host home programs have emerged as vital and compassionate support systems, offering safe and inclusive environments for LGBTQ youth navigating challenging circumstances.

Host Homes offers an option for young adults exiting foster care system. While in some states, youth can remain in the foster care system until the age of 21, here in Delaware youth ‘age out’ of foster care at the age of 18. According to the most recently available numbers, 36% of youth in foster care in Delaware were over the age of 14, a number higher than the national average of 24%.

Supporting these young people as they will leave foster care in the coming years is crucial. Youth who age out of foster care, never having found a permanent home or family, are more likely to engage in risky behaviors and more likely to experience hardships such as homelessness, joblessness, early parenthood and substance use. Delaware is lucky to have Lifelines, a program of the West End Neighborhood House, that supports young people including youth who have experienced foster care. Host homes offer another approach to compliment this important work.

Host home programs, also known as host family or host network programs, provide temporary housing for individuals who are facing homelessness or housing instability. They match LGBTQ youth with supportive volunteer hosts who open their homes and hearts, creating a sense of stability, safety, and belonging, along with a professional counselor to coach them as they transition to adulthood.

One of the key reasons host home programs are crucial for LGBTQ youth experiencing housing instability is the unique support they provide. Unlike traditional shelters, host homes create a familial space where individuals feel safe, understood, and validated. Many LGBTQ youth who have faced rejection from their families or the broader community find solace in host homes, where their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression are respected and affirmed. This environment fosters a sense of mental and emotional well-being, empowering individuals to rebuild their lives with a strong foundation of support.

Moreover, host home programs can serve as valuable educational tools for the wider community. By engaging volunteers as hosts, these programs not only provide housing but also facilitate empathy and understanding. Through direct interactions with LGBTQ youth, hosts can learn about their experiences, challenges, and triumphs, ultimately dismantling prejudices and stereotypes surrounding the LGBTQ community. This education fosters a more inclusive and accepting society, reducing the discrimination often faced by LGBTQ individuals.

Struggling with housing instability can have profound and long-lasting impacts on LGBTQ youth. It leaves them vulnerable to various risks, including physical violence, mental health issues, substance abuse, and exploitation. Host home programs offer a protective shield against these dangers by providing secure and stable environments. In addition to shelter, host homes connect youth with essential services such as healthcare, education, employment, and counseling, further enhancing their chances of long-term stability and success.

The benefits of host home programs extend beyond the immediate aftermath of homelessness. Research indicates that stable housing is foundational for young people to focus on their education, establish career paths, and maintain positive relationships. Host homes provide a stepping stone towards self-sufficiency and create an environment where LGBTQ youth can thrive, enabling them to contribute meaningfully to society.

Support for learning about and starting a Host Homes program in Delaware is available. Ryan Berg, an LGBTQ+ Youth Advocate who works at Avenues for Youth in Minneapolis, recently shared his experience with operating host homes program for LGBTQ+ Youth. Another great resource is Point Source Youth. They have created a handbook with detailed information about how to start a youth-centered host homes program. The handbook will be launched on May 6th.

It is crucial to continue advocating for increased awareness and support for host home programs. Comprehensive funding, collaboration with local government agencies, and enhanced outreach efforts are essential to ensure these programs reach those in need. By building a robust network of host homes in Delaware, we can provide reliable and compassionate housing solutions for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

Your help is needed. If you are interested in being an advocate for unhoused LGBTQ+ Youth in Delaware, please email to get involved.