How can we strengthen the village?


Youth facing homelessness come already loved, but the people who care about them often face barriers to providing hospitality.

If you’re committed to reducing youth homelessness, especially the over-representation of BIPOC youth, then let’s explore how we can work together!

If you’re building the evidence base for chosen family and kin . . .

When young people can no longer live at home, they often reach out to adults they already know.

Both youth and their adult hosts–their best friend’s mom, a neighbor, a cousin who lets them sleep on the living room couch–often describe each other as chosen family. This finding upends the common assumption that couch hopping is categorically dangerous, putting youth at risk of exploitation.

Jacqueline initiated and co-authored this peer-reviewed study–the first to interview informal adult hosts, in addition to youth who are couch hopping:

But no matter how caring, informal hosts, especially if they are renters, can face challenges to adding another person to their household.

Bills add up. And renters who want to host face even more challenges. Leases, for example, often limit how long guests can stay. And housing benefit programs can restrict household composition and prohibit “unauthorized guests.”

Jacqueline initiated and co-authored this peer-reviewed study, which introduces the specific barriers faced by “renter hosts”:

Because structural racism has suppressed BIPOC homeownership, the majority of BIPOC households rent, making chosen family hosting especially challenging.

Stabilizing chosen family hosting arrangements requires a profound paradigm shift, as well as policy changes to address not just the youth’s needs but those of the youth’s chosen family as well.

Jacqueline co-authored Chapin Hall’s practice brief and consulted on their research overview, which makes the case for investing in informal shared housing for youth facing homelessness:

If you’re developing programming to prevent youth homelessness . . .

Trust that the youth come already loved.

The process of filling in the Circle Map helps youth identify their networks of support. The result? Visual proof that the youth is not alone, as well as motivation to further grow their support network–and perhaps consider if some people would be better off not in their circle.

Provide practical tools to support chosen family hosting arrangements.

Create an Agreement About Shared Expectations to help youth and their informal hosts get on the same page about the hosting arrangement. Discussing house rules in advance, as well as proposed length of stay and strategies to resolve conflicts can help avoid problems down the line.

Recognize that many youth stay under the radar.

When youth stay with renters whose leases restrict guest stays, they often end up staying under the radar. Understand the trade-offs involved in bringing an under-the-radar arrangement above board. Then, consider helping the youth and host approach the property owner to craft a solution where the host does not have to risk their housing and the youth can live openly.

If you’re shifting the narrative or policy landscape around youth homelessness . . .

What Relationship Building Model Does Your Youth Homelessness Agency Embrace?

Agencies can use this continuum to determine if their approach to building relationships with young people facing homelessness is transactional or supportive–or if they are acting as a bridge to bolster permanent intergenerational connections that will outlast time-limited agency involvement.

Stranger Match vs Chosen Family Host Homes

Host home programs that recruit volunteers who the youth don’t already know typically struggle to find hosts and are most successful attracting white hosts. However, the majority of youth facing homelessness are BIPOC. Pivoting to stabilize arrangements with the many unrecognized chosen family hosts, who are also often BIPOC, requires radically reimagining the current practice and policy landscape–and holds promise for reducing youth homelessness and racial disparities.

Policy Proposals to Honor and Support Chosen Family Hosting Arrangements

To invest in chosen family hosting requires revamping policies, especially for renters, that restrict their ability to openly extend hospitality to young people who they care about. What might it look like to redefine “family” to include “chosen family”?Reimagine a lease? Create a “good neighbor” grace period that would allow a host who is in lease violation to approach the property owner–without fear of eviction–to bring the arrangement aboveboard?

Work with Jacqueline

As the North American thought leader in chosen family hosting, Jacqueline can collaborate with your organization to create scalable change in research, program development, narrative change, policy, and evaluation.

Opportunity Audits

Resourcing and removing barriers to chosen family hosting requires a profound paradigm shift–from helping a youth in isolation to bolstering their already existing support network. How can your organization build on existing strengths to make the shift?

Visioning Training

Stabilizing chosen family hosting means all levels of an organization–the board and executive team, middle management and direct-service providers–need to commit to anti-racist system change. Guidance to envision what could be possible is key to cultivating the deep commitment necessary to persevere through the inevitable turbulence of system change.

Co-creative Coaching

Once an organization begins implementing support for chosen family hosting, questions inevitably arise. Because every hosting arrangement is unique, the chosen family hosting model must be a dynamic work in progress. Brainstorm with Jacqueline to develop solutions to address the unique challenges your organization encounters.

Together, we can reduce youth homelessness–most especially the overrepresentation of BIPOC youth.