By: Anna Thomas
According to the Connection Homes website, in the United States there are up to 2 million young adults ages 18 to 24 who are homeless. More than 55,000 young adults become homeless each year and 27,000 become too old for foster care when they turn 18.
When young adults age out of foster case, 36 percent experience homelessness. Of these people, 32 percent will fall victim to assault and robbery. “Survival sex” will become necessary to 14.7 percent, in order to guarantee temporary food or shelter.
The cost of these homeless young adults is $89.2 billion in taxpayer dollars. However, the young adults face a higher cost. Two-thirds of the young women will become pregnant, 60 percent of the young men will be incarcerated and only 2 to 6 percent will obtain a college education.
Homeless youth is a huge problem in our country, however, Pam Parish is looking to change this one child at a time.
Pam Parish is the founder of Connection Homes: a faith based non-profit that “exists to provide lifelong family connections for young adults who come from backgrounds of abuse, neglect, and homelessness.” Their goal is to create family-based environments for young adults as they transition into adulthood.
Parish says that she was inspired to create Connection Homes because of her own daughters. She has eight daughters: one by birth and seven through foster care and adoption. Five of her daughters came into her family after the age of 18. After hearing her daughters’ stories, she began looking at the overall landscape of youth that age out of foster care or are homeless in Georgia.
After researching, Parish says, “[I] couldn’t believe that no one was stepping up to provide permanent family-like connections for these young people to help them navigate the difficult transition from teen to adulthood.”
She found her calling and started her non-profit organization, Connection Homes.
In order to find young adults in need, Connections Homes partners with organizations such as Independent Living and Transitional Living Programs, Shelter Programs and colleges. These organizations refer young adults ages 18 to 24 to the Connection Homes program in order to match them with a mentoring family.
Another way the organization finds young adults is through their website. The Connection Homes website has a page for others to recommend a young adult for the program. It also provides more information about the types of connections the organization makes.
The program is based on creating stable adult connections for young adults that do not have healthy family relationships. The program is relationship-driven rather than housing-driven. This means, typically, a young adult in the program will not live with their mentoring family because it could be damaging to the relationship. However, if the young adult is attending college then they will stay with their mentoring family while university housing is closed.
Outside of living situations, the program for students and non-students is exactly the same. The mentoring family serves the role to care about and have a relationship with a young adult that does not have a stable family system. They make phone calls, give advice, celebrate holidays and do anything else a family would do for a child that no longer lives at home.
In order to make sure that all of their relationships are successful, Connection Homes matches a young adult with a mentoring family that has the same values and compatible personalities. They also ensure that the young adult has a desire for a mentoring family and that the family is in a realistic geographic proximity to the young adult’s primary residency or university. All of these factors help ensure that the connections will be successful.
The acceptance process for young adults includes an initial interview, a background check and an acceptance interview. Becoming a mentoring family requires applying on the website, an orientation and a background check.
In order to make sure that young adults and mentors are compatible, there is a matching process that both parties must go through. This is to ensure that they have similar interests, schedules and that they will get along well.
As of right now Connection Homes is only working in Georgia. Parish is considering the idea of national expansion in the long-term future. However, right now there are no concrete plans for expansion in place.
If you would like to donate or get involved with the cause, you can visit connectionhomes.org.