“I know how much it sucks to feel alone, and I would like to make it so nobody else has to feel that way.”
When I read this statement from a member of the Montana Youth Action Board—a group of young people who have experienced housing instability—it reminded me of the need to actively center youth voices in the fight to end youth homelessness.
Earlier this year I became involved in conversations with other state leaders on this subject, and a few weeks ago we came together to network and propose strategies moving forward. This convening was part of a unique group that Pride Foundation has recently joined: a State Peer-to-Peer Collective through A Way Home America.
Alongside other service providers, advocates, and funders from across the country, we discussed ideas and collaborative strategies to improve the reality for youth experiencing homelessness—all focused on centering the lived experiences and expertise of youth. This included a conversation about the barriers, challenges, and successful projects in areas such as Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Texas, and here in Montana.
This convening and the ongoing meetings since have offered important opportunities to connect, build relationships across sectors, and strategize ways to address all of the intricate and ever-changing barriers that youth face to accessing housing and other services, especially LGBTQ youth and youth of color.
The longer I participate in this difficult—and oftentimes seemingly insurmountable—work, the more I recognize the need to collaborate with other leaders. Only together can we hope to end youth homelessness in Montana and throughout the country.
Kim Leighton is Pride Foundation’s Regional Philanthropy Officer in Montana.