It’s no secret that Sarasota County lacks affordable housing. But did you know that as of April 2019, the average price to rent an apartment in Sarasota was $1,293? That’s up 18.5% from just a year prior. At that rate, it’s difficult to draw young adults and keep local youth here when the entry-level jobs available to them fall far under that price tag.
Now imagine starting out homeless and completely on your own.
Kenny and his case manager Kent
“There aren’t very many high-paying jobs for people my age. Especially when you’re still going through school. It’s really just restaurant jobs, or hospitality and retail. It’s really hard in Sarasota.” Meet Kenny, a resilient young man who has had a turbulent life.
Kenny’s challenges began when he was just 18 months old and his parents were no longer able to care for him. From that point, he was in an out of foster care and adoptive homes, and stayed with extended family or friends in between. Kent Baker, Kenny’s case manager at Schoolhouse Link, refers to him as “a rose who grew out of concrete.”
Thanks to innovative housing assistance he accessed through Schoolhouse Link, Kenny has finally been able to find his independence.
Rooms of Their Own
Schoolhouse Link is the nonprofit program tasked with helping Sarasota County’s homeless children and youth navigate the school and social-services system. It is also part of the Youth Advocacy Team, a collaboration of service providers and funders working to strengthen the system of care for Sarasota teens and young adults who are on their own.
The Youth Advocacy Team identified rent subsidies as one of the critical strategies to help these youth secure stable housing while they continue their education. Kenny is one of the first participants in a new housing assistance program available through the collaboration and funded by Gulf Coast and the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.
“It has really helped, I’m not going to lie,” Kenny says. “The fact that they practically pay three quarters of the rent—it’s really nice.”
Still in its infancy, the program currently supports five room-rental subsidies for homeless youth ages 16 to 24 to stay in the home of someone they know, and another five housing subsidies for youth over 18 who are ready to sign their own lease, like Kenny. He secured his rental unit at Springboard, a housing program in Sarasota that provides high-quality, conveniently located housing along with supportive services for 18- to 22-year-olds who are in extended foster care or in danger becoming homeless.
The young men and women utilizing the foundation-funded subsidies have been able to attain safe, stable housing and escape their otherwise inconsistent, transitional, or even abusive situations.
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