Bright Spot: Cincinnati, OH | Innovative Homelessness Prevention for Youth

September 26, 2019

Provide support for young people who wish to reconnect with family or other trusted adults.

Check out this Bright Spot IF…

  • Your community lacks traditional homelessness prevention funding
  • You are an innovator looking for better ways to serve LGBTQ+ youth
  • You want to try it!


Safe and Supported is a community project with the goal of preventing and ending LGBTQ+ youth homelessness in Hamilton County, Ohio. Since 2014, Safe and Supported has pioneered a variety of responses to youth homelessness like developing resource guides, adjusting forms to make them more LGBTQ+-affirming, and implementing cultural competency training across the healthcare and homelessness systems.

While Safe and Supported is trailblazing many different approaches to preventing and ending youth homelessness, this article will focus on just three: a Domestic Violence (DV)/Sexual Assault (SA) LGBTQ+ Advocate position, Host Homes, and the Faith in Families education initiative. These three projects deviate substantially from the traditional model of homelessness prevention and don’t necessarily fit neatly into the homeless crisis response system, but are promising practices in the sector.  

Partner with Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault LGBTQ+ Advocates

Through a partnership with a local Victim Services Provider, Women Helping Women (which serves people of all gender identities, despite its name), Safe and Supported has created a new staff position: an LGBTQ Advocate. Drawing on both agencies’ VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) funding, the Advocate is co-located at the local youth emergency shelter (the Sheakley Center for Youth), but has the latitude to move throughout the community where they are most needed. Because the position tends to attract younger, LGBTQ+ individuals, there is also an element of near-peer support at play. 

When shelter case managers identify an LGBTQ+ youth who has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault they notify the LGBTQ+ Advocate, who can then meet with the young person to offer connection to support, resources, and services at Women Helping Women. Quickly linking youth with support around their experience and LGBTQ+ identity has led to an increase in housing stability once the young person is connected to housing. 

Since implementing this position in 2016, Women Helping Women has quadrupled the number of LGBTQ+-identifying individuals they identify and serve, and have been able to expand the services available to LGBTQ+ young people, including a weekly support group. The link to Victims Service Providers also expands the network of services for which a young person may be eligible, increasing the available resources with which the young person can end their homelessness.

Host homes

Program Overview

Safe and Supported’s Host Home Program functions as a homelessness prevention intervention; it intends to intervene in the time between a youth’s housing stability and their experience of street or shelter homelessness. Host Homes provide youth with temporary community-based housing in the home of a volunteer family while the young person works with a case manager to resolve the factors that led to their housing instability. Hosts provide a private room, food, and mentorship for the duration of the young person’s stay. Beyond slight utility bill and grocery expense increases, hosts are never required to spend money on resources or services for the young adult in their home.  The Host Home Program provides each young adult with program funds to help cover the costs of resources or services connected to helping them pursue their goals. Young people may stay in the Host Home Program for up to one year while they work to reconnect with family, finish their education, find employment, and/or locate an alternate housing situation.

Another key element of the Host Home Program is to connect young people with a network of supportive adults, which helps youth retain housing stability and increases their well being after their exit from the host home.


Eligible youth are those young people who…

  • Are between the ages of 18-24.
  • Self-identify as LGBTQ+.
  • Are currently experiencing housing instability or have become homeless in the past month.
  • Are willing to work with a coach towards their self-defined goals.
  • Do not have an active drug/alcohol addiction, history of violent crime, active involvement in sex work,  or any active warrants for arrest.

Note: Because of the project’s bar on drug use and criminal record, it is not considered Housing First.

Recruiting Host Families

Over the past two years, Safe and Supported has recruited 15 host families, though a more typical rate of recruitment among other burgeoning host home programs is 3-5 families per year. Safe and Supported credits their higher recruitment rate to “having 1000 cups of coffee with strangers” and casting a very wide net in their outreach efforts.
Potential host families complete an application, background check, and screening process. Once approved, hosts receive training and one-on-one support from the program throughout the time they are involved

Faith in Families

Safe and Supported’s newest initiative is Faith in Families (formerly Safe and Supported Families), a workshop for families that aims to equip family members with the knowledge, skills, and resources to better understand and support the LGBTQ young person in their life. The initiative was created in response to research by Caitlin Ryan, which demonstrated that LGBT youth wellbeing outcomes were much improved when their families changed their behavior from highly rejecting to moderately rejecting.

Funded through the local United Way’s initiative on diversity, equity, and inclusion, the project aims to prevent LGBT youth homelessness by supporting youth and families to continue coexisting in the same residence, or maintaining their connection where coresidence is not possible. This project has not yet launched, but Community Solutions will follow their progress and update this document as data becomes available.