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A new housing option is available for young adults who are experiencing homelessness

Y.E.S. House

The Youth Emergency Services House, known at the Y.E.S. House is a nonprofit organization that works to assist youth and families in crisis and provide resources to keep them together whenever possible. A range of services are provided to young people from ages five to 24.

They recently started the Youth Homeless Demonstration Project. It leases the Brook Street Inn near downtown Gillette to provide young people ages 18 to 24 with a place to stay while they look for other housing options in the community or attend college.

Y.E.S. House

“The program for the Homeless Demonstration Program there at Brook Street opened in October of 2021 but there was probably at least a year of planning that went into place in there as well,” said Ryan Anderson, Executive Director of the Y.E.S. House. “It grew out of our partnership with the Wyoming Homeless Collaborative (WHC), which is also the continuum of care.”

Their relationship with the WHC allowed them to apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This led to developing a partnership with the owners of the Brook Street Inn, who were seeking to get out of operating it on a day-to-day basis. The Y.E.S. House currently leases the entire building in a five-year agreement with the option on a renewal at the end of that period.

There are 18 units in total, 14 of which are available for youth to rent. Two rooms are reserved for resident assistants who live on site with the other two being used for office space. Anderson said the rooms have been full since they opened and that there’s currently a waiting list of a few people. There’s a two-year limit as to how long someone can reside at the Brook Street Inn, though some young adults may still be part of the program, such as participating in independent living groups while living elsewhere. This includes participants living in dorm rooms while being enrolled at Gillette College. Even if program participants have officially aged out, they may still be able to access some of the Y.E.S. House’s services, such as transportation if they lack access to a vehicle.

“We've served about 30 youth in the Brook Street apartments, however, that's just one of the ways that we house homeless youth, homeless young adults,” said Clark Fairbanks, Assistant Director of the Y.E.S. House. “We also serve them in the community helping them secure their own rental apartments or other living environments. So, as I said, Brook Street is just one of the housing options, but it's been a tremendous option because those apartments are fully furnished and available when you move in.”

Residents must pay rent, though it can be paid by non-traditional means, such as by helping with the daily upkeep of the facility.

Y.E.S. House
A sitting area in one of the rooms for homeless youth at the Brooks Street Inn.

“We offer rent credit, so if they go to a therapy session, they get like $15 for going there, if they show up to a cooking group, they get $15, they can come to gym board, that's $15,” said Gelena Kent, Y.E.S House Youth Homeless Demonstration Program manager. “Their rent for the first month is free and then it just progresses as they go through the month. But then anything that they do, if we need shoveling, if we need vacuuming, anything that they want to do, they can earn rent credit to pay for their rent, like they don't always have to pay cash [but can if they want to].”

Y.E.S. House
A bed and sleeping area in the Brook Street Inn.

The Brook Street facility expanded the age range that the Y.E.S. House cares for by extending it into the young adult years. However, it’s not the first time they’ve provided programs aimed at those over the age of 18. Their Independent and Transitional Living Program also helps young adults up to age 21 to receive life skills, training, financial management, and goal setting. Mental health treatment is also a major focus as well. Many of those in the transitional living program and those residing at the Brook Street Inn receive this treatment in addition to other life skills.

“A lot of these young adults have lived experience as far as trauma, substance abuse, addiction and things like that and a lot of them don't have any real support in their lives or [a] lack of support,” Anderson said. “There's a lot of growing up and maturing that happens when you're 18 to 24 years old.”

The Y.E.S. House also provides housing at the Brook Street Inn to those in need of their services from surrounding counties.

“We do a lot of outreach like we go to Crook and Weston County two or three times a month to do outreach,” Kent said. “We've been greeted with warm thanks for us doing this program. We work with DFS [Department of Family Services], [Department of] Workforce Services, anybody that we go to the mental health clinic in Sundance in Crook County. We do a lot of outreach trying to bring these communities in to reach those youth that are in more rural areas than what we are in Campbell County.”

Y.E.S. House
The kitchen area in a room for homeless youth at the Brook Street Inn.

Anderson said that homelessness is seen as someone who doesn’t have shelter, but this also includes those who ‘couch surf’ or stay with family or friends but who otherwise don’t have a regular place to stay.

“We have a lot of people that have that perception of homelessness as in they literally don't have a place to stay and so they're sleeping on the street, sleeping in their car,” he said. “The face of homelessness isn't really what most people perceive it as. It is couch surfing, which I think is, it sounds like a not a big deal like it's, ‘Oh, they're sitting on somebody's couch isn't a big deal.’ But I think it does a bit of a disservice to the gravity of that situation…it's a horribly stressful situation for kids because it's really not a safe, consistent housing model for them.”

The Y.E.S. House’s services are well used. Last year alone, they served 1,344 youth and families in Northeast Wyoming.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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