Grant to support rent stipends for homeless youths in the community

Gulf Coast Community Foundation awards $25,000 to Safe Children Coalition

Ellen McLaughlin (left) is the director of the Safe Children Coalition’s Schoolhouse Link program, while Karen Mersinger is a program specialist. Photo courtesy of Safe Children Coalition

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation (Gulf Coast), which is based in Venice, has awarded a $25,000 grant to the Safe Children Coalition (SCC) to support the Coalition’s Schoolhouse Link for unaccompanied or homeless youth rooming, as well as apartment rental subsidies, the Coalition has announced.

The funds came through Gulf Coast’s Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Initiative, a news release notes.

“For homeless families or displaced teens who are on their own, Safe Children Coalition’s Schoolhouse Link program serves as protector, support system and advocate,” the release explains. “Schoolhouse Link is contracted by the Sarasota County School Board, serving as the school district’s ‘homeless liaison,’ ” the release adds.

“The purpose of the youth room and apartment rental subsidies is to improve student safety and stability” for homeless young adults ages 18 to 25 — who have no family support system — “while promoting their continued connection to education,” the release continues. “These young individuals need to have been identified as homeless and on their own at the time of connection to SCC’s services. They can receive the housing stipend for up to two years,” the release notes. “This assistance has allowed youth to complete high school, begin post-secondary education,” and perhaps earn advanced certifications, the release points out.

Youths select their housing and pay a portion of rent and all of the utilities and other living expenses, the release continues. “The program pays a portion of the rent each month to help make the housing more affordable.”

The youths also are required to work and continue their education, the release explains. Additionally, they “work with a REACH (Reconnecting Employment and Academics in Community Housing) program coordinator and youth education advocate to receive crucial support in their journey to independence and stability,” the release points out.

“We refer to the program as a ‘launching pad’ — not a parking lot — because it helps youths to successfully transition to the next phase in their lives,” said Schoolhouse Link program Director Ellen McLaughlin in the release. “The young adults we serve don’t have the benefit of financial support or counsel from their families and are at a serious disadvantage at a critical time of their lives. We are grateful to Gulf Coast Community Foundation for helping us to provide a holistic support system so that these young people have a shot at successful adult lives.”

“Gulf Coast Community Foundation is honored to support the vital work that Schoolhouse Link does for young adults, and we know the importance of maintaining this strong program,” Gulf Coast President and CEO Phillip Lanham added in the release. “In the past, we have taken a leadership role in addressing youth homelessness and we understand the critical need for a pathway to independence and purpose. We envision thriving communities with opportunities for all,” he said.

Many different scenarios are available for youths “who do not have a stable home, including older teens or young adults who are fending for themselves on the streets,” the release points out. “At present, there are several youths in independent housing and room rentals receiving rent subsidies through the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Initiative,” it notes.