Health Center Launches Home For Young Women Aging Out of Foster Care in Washington State

BESTY House (002)Like most health centers, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services (YNHS) in Yakima, WA, has dedicated itself to the mission of keeping communities healthy. This is a task that is not just about preventing illness but addressing the factors that cause it–the social determinants of health, such as malnutrition, joblessness, stress, poverty and homelessness–all of which are linked to chronic illness. That is why YNHS breaks the mold as a healthcare provider and addresses problems that go beyond the exam room with no small amount of innovation. Not only does the health center employ a housing specialist, it has also joined forces with local organizations to launch a new program that will help young adults avoid homelessness after they age out of foster care.

The Broadening Education and Self Sufficiency for Transitional Youth program, or BESTY, as the program is called, happened after YNHS, Rod’s House, the South Central Workforce Council and Educational Service District 105 formed a partnership. YNHS will provide the housing, Rod’s House will contribute a Youth Employment Navigator for job coaching and individualized graduation plans. Educational Service District 105 will have an education specialist train case managers to work with youth with challenging behavior; and the Workforce Council and OIC of Yakima will help with skills training and job placement. HomeStreet Bank also donated $10,000 to help furnish the house, which is also funded by the Seattle nonprofit, Building Change.

The plan is for five young women between the ages of 18 and 21 to live in the BESTY house up to 36 months as they transition from foster care to independent living and self-sufficiency. A “house host” will be hired to live on-site to mentor and guide the residents. BESTY house residents will pay about $200 each for rent from their stipends to support house operations.

“We were able to buy this house when it came on the market and our deputy CEO, Rhonda Hauff, went to work on securing a three-year grant to offer these youth an alternative to possibly falling into homelessness,” said YNHS Board   Chairman, Don Hinman.” They’ll be able to go to college or technical school and gain skills they need to live on their own.”

“The goal is for them to become self-sufficient,” said YNHS deputy CEO Rhonda Hauff in an interview with the Yakima Herald.

A second group of up to 12 at-risk youth to be served by the BESTY program will be those in need of intense support as they exit foster care.

Neighborhood Health is in its 41st year of providing health care in the Yakima Valley with eight locations offering medical, dental, vision, behavioral health and pharmacy services, including basic needs assistance for the homeless.

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