youth homelessness

In Their Own Words: Boston’s Youth Action Board is Critical to Efforts to End Youth Homelessness

“I think that young adults who experience and survive homelessness and housing instability are some of the most resilient, resourceful, interesting, and creative people on the planet, and I feel incredibly lucky to get to work together to create a community where every young person has a safe and stable place to be.” Ayala, Co-Director Boston Youth Action Board 

Since 2016, the Boston Youth Action Board (YAB) has been meeting to offer their insight and expertise to help change the ways that youth and young adults experiencing homelessness are supported. Their leadership and perspectives became a critical driver over the past year in the development of the City of Boston’s recently-launched Rise to the Challenge plan to reduce and end youth homelessness.  

Experts say the inclusion of youth and young adults with lived experience is critical to creating an effective action plan.

“You have a winning formula to end youth homelessness in Boston,” said Megan Gibbard Kline, Director at A Way Home America (AWHA), during a recent appearance in Boston.  AWHA recently reorganized its own leadership board and added eight youth leaders who have experienced homelessness. “To guide the work ahead, those most impacted by the crisis of youth homelessness must have primary influence,” said AWAH as it announced its new national steering committee.

“We’ve been working with the Boston Youth Action Board for over a year and have been impressed by their commitment, passion for making a difference, and willingness to challenge the status quo and old ways of approaching the issue,” says Michael K. Durkin, President and Chief Executive Officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

So, who are the leaders working to ensure youth have the services and supports needed to be on a path of stability and economic mobility? The Boston YAB recently profiled their members on their Facebook page. Here’s what they have to say about the work ahead:

My passion to end youth homelessness comes from personal experience, and a deep desire to create more space for REAL youth voice at the top of the chain. I view my job as a director to be able to work myself out of my job, and will consider my work complete when the YAB Facilitators can take over for me. I can’t wait. They freaking rock. – Lauren

My focus is equity and those usually forgotten, like those experiencing “hidden” homelessness, doubled up or couch surfing, and Black youth and young adults, and those with disabilities. I care about how it affects us and our community as a whole. I’m excited to continue to be a part of the team breaking stigma that comes with homelessness, finding job opportunities, and free events for youth and young adults in the community.”  – Ominique

Being part of the YAB has opened my eyes and helped me understand my situation and navigate through my life. That’s why today I am proud to say that I am a facilitator that is ready to fight with the youth to end youth homelessness. – Kem

I love doing work that helps bring smiles to people’s faces so smile people aaaahh. I will do my best to help my community thrive and prosper to the best of my degree. I’m ready and excited for the opportunity to be a part of the YAB team. – Warren

It is such an honor to be continuing the work that The YAB does from a new position as a facilitator. I hope to assist the YAB in reaching new heights with my new position to a point where hopefully there comes a day when the Boston YAB will no longer be needed. I’ve gotten so many opportunities through the YAB and my journey with them started with my love of poetry. In a way the YAB helped me find my voice and I now use that voice to be more than a youth advocate but an advocate for youth. Dustin

To me the motive is to make it through the tough times. My hopes in working with the yab is to allow the youth a means of survival that isn’t so tough. Affordable housing and food is an elusive necessity. Finding a way to navigate the system and receive adequate healthcare and resources is difficult. By working with the Youth Action Board of Boston, I hope to simplify our struggles. We are taking steps in the right direction to finally open the lock on success. The goal is that some day in the future we can all make it without having to struggle. Kaytie

I’m quite excited and honored to be a part of an important movement. It’s time we stand up and make a change. With the economy being how it is, making a change is important. You never know you too can be a victim of homelessness. Jocelyn

I am excited to empower youth and young adults who are experiencing or have experienced homelessness and housing instability. – Pippin

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley was recently selected by the City of Boston to help oversee implementation of the Rise to the Challenge plan, in partnership with the Department of Neighborhood Development and Youth and the Health and Human Services Cabinet.  Together, United Way, the City and the Boston Youth Action Board will bring together community partners, drive the alignment of programs addressing the housing, supportive services, education, and employment needs of young people, and monitor performance.

Featured photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office (Jeremiah Robinson)