A new program aims to help homeless youth nearing adulthood develop skills and learn about resources they may need as adults.

The Independent Living Program consists of topics such as employment, educational planning, knowledge of community resources, housing, food management and more. 

Amanda Book, the Marysville Joint Unified School District homeless advocate and Displaced Youth Multi-Disciplinary Team coordinator, said this is the first year the Independent Living Program has been offered. 

The program at Yuba College was set up for foster youth and Book said they thought having a similar program for homeless youth to teach them life skills would be beneficial.

“A lot of the homeless population is generational and we want to stop that generational homelessness,” she said. “... I think if we’re there to help them, to guide them, to teach them, it helps them find the confidence to pursue things outside of high school.”

Diana Adams is now the instructor for the program for homeless youth but used to instruct the program at Yuba College for foster youth. 

There are currently two students who consistently attend the class and they have met three times. 

Adams said, so far, they have mostly been focusing on goal setting and setting ground rules for how they want the class to run – such as having a rule about no electronic devices and what the meetings will look like. 

Part of the goal, she said, is to have the students set goals and dream about their future. She said she’s planning an exercise where the students will write everything they want to do and everything they want to have and discuss it in the class. 

“You have to tell yourself you want something before you do it,” Adams said. 

She said the Independent Living Program is important because it gives the students some support.

“I think that they need all of the help they can get,” Adams said. “... This is a brand new thing and I’m excited to be a part of it. I hope to make these kids’ lives better one way or another.”

Jami Larson, director of categorical programs for the Marysville Joint Unified School District, said the classes also provide them dinner and an opportunity to socialize with youth in similar situations. 

The Independent Living Program is run by the Displaced Youth Multi-Disciplinary Team and funded through a Homeless Emergency Assistance Program (HEAP) Grant orchestrated by the Sutter Yuba Homeless Consortium, Larson said.

Book said the Displaced Youth Multi-Disciplinary Team is comprised of several different local agencies, including all Yuba County school districts, Yuba County Office of Education, Victor Community Support Services,  Yuba County Health and Human Services, Youth 4 Change, Yuba County Probation (specifically Yuba County Victim Services), Sutter-Yuba Behavioral Health and Yuba County Children’s Wellness and Child Abuse Prevention Council.

Book said the team is in its second year and aims to help families more quickly by bringing the agencies together to discuss the families – with consent from the families.

“We have such a need with our homeless population,” she said. “... Families have to sign a release so they can be talked about and we can get them the services they need.”

She said they just received the HEAP Grant and are using it to start a few different programs – including the Independent Living Program. 

She said the plan is to continue the Independent Living Program in future years as well, depending on funding. 

There are going to be a total of 17 Independent Living Program classes throughout the school year – Larson said there will be a graduation celebration in June. There are also incentives in an effort to increase participation as well, such as dinner.

Larson said all high school students in Yuba County who qualify through the Displaced Youth Multi-Disciplinary Team are eligible to participate in the program. Students who are homeless or precariously housed can be referred to the team. 

Book said high school counselors are aware of the program and if students who are homeless or are at risk of being homeless are interested in participating, they can reach out to their counselor for more information. 

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