The Rapidian

3:11 Youth Housing to triple capacity

The Grand Rapids-based nonprofit serves youth ages 18-24 by creating safe, affordable housing. The organization is adding two new houses in Fall 2016.
New house for youth experiencing homelessness

New house for youth experiencing homelessness /Courtesy of 3:11 youth housing

Underwriting support from:

/Courtesy of 3:11 Youth Housing

3:11 Youth Housing is adding two new houses this fall, tripling their capacity to support youth experiencing homelessness in Kent County. 3:11 Youth Housing, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit, is dedicated to serving youth ages 18-24 who are experiencing homelessness by creating safe, affordable housing and partnering in young people's transition to healthy interdependence.

Young adulthood, that time between the ages of 18 and 24, is a challenging time for most people. It is time where a young person is finding his or her way and navigating the often uncertain transition to adulthood. For the many youth experiencing homelessness in Kent County, this transition is even more difficult. This experience is more than being without a reliable place to stay; it’s about a lack of stability, both mentally and physically, during such a tumultuous time of life.

Recent estimates predict around 2,000 youth in Kent County experience homelessness each year, and on any given night, around 80 young people are without a place to stay. Young people become homeless due to a variety of reasons, from fleeing abusive situations to parent abandonment to family unemployment. 3:11 Youth Housing strives to combat this disconnection and foster authentic community.

3:11 Youth Housing believes in housing first, positive youth development and harm reduction approaches. They believe that access to housing should not come with preconditions, instead it is a basic need for all people, and once satisfied, helps propel youth towards their best future. Through partnerships and community connections, youth are empowered to make their own choices and set goals to move their lives forward. 3:11 Youth Housing provides support, through house mentors and the community, to walk alongside young people through the highs and lows of their lives. Each house focuses on young people finding safe and affordable housing. But, the true mission of the organization is for young people to find a place to call home.

The first 3:11 property houses four young people at a time. Youth reside in the upper half of the duplex, while house mentors live in the bottom half. House mentors are essential to 3:11’s mission providing instruction and guidance about crucial skills for independent living. Mentors host weekly dinners and connect young people to employment opportunities, educational support, guidance on life skills, health care, transportation and other services to begin to gain hope for a brighter future. Together as a community, 3:11 connects each young person to a place to call home, where they are loved and cared for as family. One 3:11 youth shared this experience, “The good thing about 3:11 is that you have people who live real close, are comfortable with who you are, comfortable with who they are, and are willing to talk to you. They ask you what do you want to do, how do you want to grow? And they help you create your own plan to help you achieve your own goals.”  

With the guidance, support, and enthusiasm of many Grand Rapids organizations and donors, 3:11 Youth Housing is thrilled to triple their capacity in 2016! Many organizations and individual donors have been essential to this expansion as active partners in this work. The new homes will follow the same model as the first home, with house mentors and case managers walking alongside youth on their journey to interdependence.

As 3:11 continues to grow, graduates and alumni of 3:11 remain a part of the family. Graduates are encouraged to participate in weekly meals and to begin mentoring current 3:11 youth as they choose. A recent graduate of 3:11 speaks to the idea of family: “3:11 gave me time to get back on my feet. I was able to get a job, some income, and eventually my own place. But, even more, it gave me a family for the first time in my life.”

3:11 is not the end of the journey for most youth. 3:11 Youth Housing Co-Executive Director, Lauren VanKeulen, shares, “It could take 10 years before a young person feels secure and stable in their own journey and has a foundation to grow and flourish. We walk with young people for as long as they choose, recognizing that place matters and that true home and true family last forever.”

To find out more, or to get involved, visit 3:11 Youth Housing at If you know of a youth in need of housing, visit HQ or the GR Center for Community Transformation to learn how to be connected to 3:11; new openings will not be available until September 2016.

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