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May 2017Vol. 18, No. 3Supportive Community Important to Transitional Youth Housing Program

One of the greatest contributions of a transitional living program (TLP), a youth housing model, is the supportive environment it creates for its youth residents. A recent journal article points out that many youth in TLPs may have never before experienced positive relationships. While young people experiencing homelessness face many challenges, less is known about the effectiveness of programs designed to address these hurdles. This latest study, which was funded by the Fahs-Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation at the New York Community Trust, looks at the impact of TLPs from the perspective of former homeless youth.

The study is based on interviews with 32 young people who had been part of a Chicago-based TLP. Interviewees emphasized the themes of family, individual connections, community, and their level of preparedness to be on their own as those that most characterize the TLP experience and make it a developmentally appropriate program model for youth in transition.

The study participants emphasized how much they valued the family environment within the TLP and the ability to build a sense of community. Participants reported that the observance of everyday rituals and basic rules and responsibilities within the TLP environment were instructive in helping them adopt new habits that will be useful in attaining future goals. For some participants, the TLP was their first experience of hearing a regular "good morning" greeting or returning at the end of the day to a place where others cared about their well-being. Participants also shared that while living in a group home was difficult at times, it taught them valuable interpersonal skills they have found useful in subsequent living environments and the workplace.

The author points out that the themes of family and supportive community are not generally included in discussions of the "housing first" approach, which places a priority on housing. What is most important to vulnerable young people, the study finds, are the emotional, practical, and developmental supports provided by the TLP model. Most participants valued the 24-hour access to support from staff and peers as a critical step toward long-term stability and believed that young people need time to adequately prepare for independent living. The study participants also emphasized the importance of preparing for independent living surrounded by those who share similar circumstances and goals and by those who can support their transition to stability and wellness.

To view the article abstract, visit

Holtschneider, Casey. (2016). A part of something: The importance of transitional living programs within a Housing First framework for youth experiencing homelessness. Children and Youth Services Review, 65, 204–215.