Host Homes Needed: Bridge2Home is Creating Innovative Solutions to Reduce Youth Homelessness in Western PA

In 2019, Valley Youth House expanded into Western PA to meet the increasing need of youth experiencing homelessness. We are currently serving Allegheny, Armstrong and Westmoreland Counties with our Bridge2Home, Host Home Program.

Our decision to expand services into Western PA was based on increased numbers of youth in need of stable housing. In 2018-2019, Pennsylvania’s Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program (ECYEH) identified 39,221 children and youth experiencing homelessness as being served by their program. This is the largest number ever reported from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and it continues to grow.

Community human service agencies report that this number does not capture the extent of runaway youth, youth who are “couch surfing”, or unstably housed seen by their services. Therefore, the number of youth who are homeless is likely much higher.

What is Bridge2Home?

Bridge2Home is a supportive, temporary housing program that works with young people ages 16-24 who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Valley Youth House matches a youth in need with a nurturing environment (a host home). The goal of the program is to assist youth with safe, short-term housing or make decisions about other housing options with the support of a caring case manager and the guidance of a community volunteer.

What is a Host Home?

A Host Home is a short-term (approximately 6-month) housing intervention for youth who are currently experiencing homelessness for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, abuse, family conflict, poverty, pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Host Homes provide a room to a youth after a matching process that utilizes youth choice and voice. There are two paths to becoming a Host:

  1. A Host may be recruited from the community

  2. A Host may already know the youth and is currently providing housing and support without realizing that they qualify as a Host. This is the path of being “youth selected”. The Host would be formalized to provide support from Valley Youth House and financial assistance that will help the youth achieve their goals.

Why do we use a Host Home Model to address youth homelessness?

Host Homes is a flexible model that is effective in urban, suburban, and rural settings. Host Homes allow youth to remain in their community and build authentic relationships with caring adults. Host Homes guide a path for youth success in a homelike setting, promote youth choice and voice, and assist with transition for youth to more independent housing options.

Why do we focus on youth who are experiencing homelessness?

Serving youth has been at the core of Valley Youth House’s mission for nearly 50 years. We understand that youth homelessness is unique because young people are still developing while they are experiencing homelessness and typically become homeless through no fault of their own. Additionally, youth who experience homelessness are especially vulnerable to criminal victimization, sexual exploitation, labor and sex trafficking, or traumatic stress. Experiencing homelessness can be a devastating experience with significant negative impacts on human development and life trajectory.

How can you help?

  • Are you ready for a powerful and unique experience?

  • Are you at least 25 years old and able to open your home to a young person who needs short term housing, resources, and support?

  • Can you commit to providing food and shelter to a youth for a minimum period of 6 months? (There will be financial assistance available.)

  • Do you have the generosity, spirit, and commitment to offer safe and affirming homes to youth?

  • Is your living space ready and safe for a young person?

  • Do you know a youth in need and are already providing some help, but would like extra structure and support?

What are the Eligibility and Expectations of Volunteer Hosts?

  • Host Homes should have an extra bedroom to provide privacy for the youth

  • Host Home Families should be over the age of 25

  • Have renters’/homeowners’ insurance

  • Be able to provide references

  • Authorize Valley Youth House to complete a background check

  • Complete application, interviews, and training

Do Host Homes Really Work?

Yes! Here is a recent success story:

At age 17 and a senior in high school, Jane ran away from her family home after a physical altercation with a family member. She found herself in an unsafe situation sleeping on the floor of a friend’s bedroom, and was not able to return home.

Jane continued her school attendance and confided in her guidance counselor that she experienced a difficult childhood, was the victim of a recent assault in her home, and was sleeping on a friend’s floor. 

Following this disclosure, the school contacted Bridge2Home, in which Jane was interviewed and expressed a willingness to voluntarily be “matched” with a Host and the perfect home was available to her just a few days later! 

Jane became a part of the family, turned 18 while living at the Host home, and graduated from high school with Honors. With guidance and mentoring from the Host family and her Case Manager, Jane was able to obtain employment, receive her driving permit, and reach the goal of securing her own apartment.  

Does This Sound Like You?

If these situations sound similar to you, you may already be eligible to be a Host Home! Oftentimes, a Host may provide housing and support without realizing that they qualify as a Host. This is the path of youth selecting their hosts based on their current situation. The youth and Host would then be welcomed into the Bridge2Home program and receive professional support and financial assistance to help the youth achieve their goals.

Youth homelessness is a growing problem in our region, and we are looking for people who are willing to open their hearts and homes to help a youth in need. Will you consider becoming a Host Home?

Open your heart, open your home. Visit to become a Host Home and help provide stable housing for youth in your community.