alik Banks had been living out of his car in the Tacoma area for about two months when the 23-year-old decided he could use some help.
One afternoon this August, he came to the REACH Center, which offers housing, employment, education and other services to teens and young adults throughout Pierce County. The lanky youth smiled broadly as he greeted peer outreach specialist William Terry, who also happens to be an old family friend.
Seated in a small conference room, Banks told Terry how he and his younger brother had wound up homeless in California after a rift with a family member there. They came back to their hometown, but Banks’ father could squeeze only one more person into his studio apartment. Banks decided that person should be his 18-year-old brother.
Getting a place “is not going to be an overnight thing,” Terry explained.
Yet, for a youth like Banks, the process is likely faster than it would have been just a year ago in Tacoma. Frustrated that young people were languishing for months in shelters and on the streets while waiting for housing, REACH, in collaboration with 15 other agencies, launched the ACT Program last October.
Using private funding, the program assists with move-in costs, a bus ticket home, gas to get to a job interview and other modest expenses that help youths — and sometimes their families — get and stay housed. Known as diversion, this sort of individualized approach to homelessness has proven successful with adults in Pierce County and beyond.
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