Local organizations are joining forces to help the youngest and most vulnerable homeless people of the First Coast.
Cindy Watson, executive director of Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network; Dawn Gilman, chief executive officer of Changing Homelessness Inc.; and Kim Sirdevan, president and chief executive officer of the Youth Crisis Center, discuss how they are working together to start a new system of care for the LGBTQ youth Monday on First Coast Connect.
The three agencies will team up to provide outreach, safety net drop-in services— a series of counseling and information services— coordinated intake, case management services, and emergency housing services for those ages 18 to 24 years old, Watson said.
“Our role is to be the front door— to be the open door, that welcomes young people in,” she said.
In the new program, JASMYN will conduct outreach, build and manage a resource center on its campus, and serve as the primary case management team for the LGBTQ youth served.
Gilman said if they are able to quickly rehouse youth, “we prevent them from being the next wave of, what we call, ‘chronically homeless.’ “
CHI will provide access to coordinated intake, information management and evaluation support.
“Young people are very resilient. If given the right supports and connections, they are able to bounce back and they will never be back at our system,” Gillman said.
Sirdevan added YCC will provide emergency housing services, mental health counseling and life skills support, “so they can find themselves to become stable and make a better decision on what permanency looks like for them.”
Many families don't accept or understand their child’s orientation, causing adolescents to leave their homes, Watson said.
Young adults become vulnerable after going through the traumatic experience of being abruptly rejected by a parent, Watson said. This leaves them vulnerable to destructive behavior, including violence, and engagement in survival sex for a place to sleep or food.
“That’s where JASMYN plays an important role,” she said. “We take them in and accept them.”