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Most youth and young adults with serious mental health conditions face a steep, uphill climb in their brave quest to find suitable housing. For TAY with limited incomes (whether earning a minimum wage or receiving disability benefits) the apartment rental market is all but out of reach. Their credit rating is often either not established or marred by past evictions. Many TAY have not yet developed the necessary skills to manage budgets or manage rowdy friends who inevitably want to crash at their new place. All too often, youth with mental health conditions are placed in adult congregate care facilities. These frequently shabby, residential warehouses are no place for young people to start out their lives.
What can TAY programs do to meet these challenges and help their young clients achieve this fundamental life goal? It’s clear that progress in other critical life domains, such as employment, education and wellbeing are undermined by housing instability. One of the main challenges in providing a menu of developmentally attuned housing options is the very broad range of maturity, skills and functional impairments of young people. Some youth continue to need ongoing adult support and supervision, while others have progressed quickly in their self-sufficiency. (It’s helpful to keep in mind that the average age for emancipation of youth in the U.S. doesn’t fully occur until their early thirties.) Developmentally appropriate housing remains one of the biggest challenges for TAY programs to get their minds and arms around.
TAY programs across the country have been experimenting with different approaches on how to best address this critical need. Some offer supported housing through subsidized “training” apartments, often with roommates, embedded in residential complexes with other supported units. This “hub” style enables programs to flexibly adjust levels of support to meet changing levels of need. Others provide various kinds of group-home, transitional housing arrangements, but struggle with arbitrary time limits that can be destabilizing. No one size fits all, and TAY require a continuum of support to succeed.
TAY housing depends on numerous factors, such as available funding, organizational leadership and commitment, as well as the ever volatile housing market. How does your program guide and support “where TAY stays”?