As you may have seen throughout the year, The Door is proudly celebrating 50 years of groundbreaking and impactful work empowering NYC youth to reach their fullest potential. Each month we are highlighting one of the many programs that make The Door a special place. As we close out July, we are shining a spotlight on our Runaway and Homeless Youth Program and Supportive Services (RHY), which is on the frontlines every day working directly with homeless and unstably housed NYC youth, ensuring their voices and concerns are listened to and their needs are met.
According to the 2021 New York City Youth Count conducted by the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), 5,734 NYC youth between ages 14 and 24 were unsheltered or experienced unstable housing.
Located in Soho, our RHY drop-in center serves as a safe place for young people experiencing housing instability and connects youth with immediate crisis housing and mental health support. Members can connect with expertly trained and caring staff who support them in navigating immediate crisis needs, referring them to shelters if needed, and longer-term connections to resources and housing with the goal of achieving self-sufficiency, with access to food, showers, and laundry all onsite.
In 2021, The Door worked with over 1,600 young people between ages 16 and 25 to provide stable housing and basic needs care consisting of pantry bags of food, prepared to-go meals, and clothing.
SUPPORTIVE HOUSING SITES
In addition to our drop-in center, The Door operates two 24/7 supportive housing buildings in the East Village, East 9th Street and The Lee, each equipped with teams of resident life coaches at both locations to support residents with their mental health and housing needs.
MENTAL HEALTH HUB
Through the support of DYCD funding, The Door became a part of a new network of mental hubs throughout New York City, which established the RHY Mental Health and Wellness Hub. The Hub offers peer support, social work support, and counseling services specifically to runaway and homeless youth who are facing housing crises.
“We’ve learned that young people are more open about wanting support. Pre-pandemic, we provided general talks and referred members to The Door’s general counseling center, but most young people would miss several appointments. During the pandemic, we built a mental health and wellness hub to offer ongoing counseling sessions and mental health exams [psych evaluations] that are not in a clinic to create a more welcoming environment,” shares Rachel Walters, Clinical Supervisor at The Door.
AGING OUT OF HOUSING, LEGAL SUPPORT, AND FOSTER CARE
One of the most difficult aspects of supporting young people to achieve stable housing is the aging-out deadline—the point at which a young person exceeds the age range to remain eligible for and maintain supportive housing. The Door’s Housing Navigation Team works with young people to seek longer-term housing, assists with management applications and home moving-in processes, and attends housing tours. After the housing situation is established, our social workers routinely check in with residents to ensure their needs are being met with building management and continue to work with residents on individual long-term goals. In addition, our teams maintain relationships with adult management programs.
Partnering with the Housing Navigation Team, the RHY legal clinic, offered every Wednesday, is designed specifically for runaway and homeless youth and youth in foster care dealing with unstable housing who have legal questions and need support navigating new or ongoing cases.
Collaborating with The Door’s Bronx Youth Center (BYC), which specializes in working with youth who are currently in or had a previous history with foster care, RHY has a foster care coordinator who accesses a young persons’ housing needs and provides case management services in the Bronx and Soho.
THE FUTURE OF RHY PROGRAMMING AND SUPPORTIVE SERVICES
Currently, The Door’s RHY drop-in center is one of only two daytime drop-in centers in all five boroughs of New York City. Commenting on her hopes for the future of the RHY program and Supportive Services, RHY Director Stacy Stewart observes, “I know it may not happen tomorrow, but I would like to see us change to a 24/7 drop-in center to support young people who don’t secure housing, especially those who are travelling from out of state.”
Noting multiple factors that exacerbate housing instability for runaway and homeless youth—among them an inability to afford rent and/or rent increases, inflation, and a shortage of shelter beds—Stacy also recommends increasing access to shelter beds specifically designated for youth and implementing legislation that limits the rent amounts for runaway and homeless youth.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Door’s drop-in center was a lively place, constantly bustling with staff and young people participating in various activities and meetings. Since March 2020, programming and services have shifted to a hybrid virtual and in-person care model. However, these adaptations and challenges have not stopped our RHY program from expanding in size and in the services we offer to youth members. The RHY team not only quickly pivoted to offering virtual meetings, but also designed and launched the aforementioned health and wellness hub and legal clinic to meet the specific needs of runaway and homeless youth, and expanded their supportive services to include an onsite food pantry, laundry room, and shower room.
Stacy is optimistic that RHY services will continue to expand and grow in alignment with the evolving needs of the youth The Door serves. “When I first started there were only social workers,” says Stacy. “I am very grateful for the people I work with and to see our teams expand in the way that they have over the years. Without them none of this work would be possible.”