Promise House has been serving homeless youth in North Texas for over thirty years, providing life-saving emergency shelter, transitional housing, pregnant and parenting teen support, counseling, education and outreach services.
This past year has been one of significant growth for the organization. While developing their strategic plan almost three years ago, Promise House identified specific groups within the homeless youth population who could greatly benefit from more specialized services. In response, they launched several new programs, including a specialized transitional living program for LGBT and former foster youth, a drop-in center for victims of child sex trafficking, and a seven-bed emergency shelter for high-needs clients in the care of Child Protective Services. Additionally, the organization is part of a first-of-its-kind collaborative to covert a vacant school building into a 35-bed shelter. The After8ToEducate collaborative brings together public and private resources to serve Dallas ISD high school students experiencing homelessness.
To better understand what youth experiencing homelessness need to succeed, Promise House organized the city’s first youth survey. In January, Promise House and the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance Youth Committee teamed up to bring homeless youth out of the shadows. During the city’s first See Us Now youth survey, groups of volunteers fanned out across Dallas and identified youth living on the street or in other unstable housing situations. By conducting brief surveys, they collected important data about the number of homeless kids in Dallas and what they need to grow and thrive.
Staff from TNOYS and Texas Appleseed, who recently co-authored the most comprehensive study to date on youth homelessness in Texas, participated in the survey effort, which was conducted in conjunction with the annual adult homelessness Point In Time (PIT) count. To help aid in the effort, Promise House referenced TNOYS’ Youth Count Texas! toolkit, which provides guidance on conducting surveys of homeless youth. Ultimately, 137 surveys were completed and the Promise House team is currently in the process of evaluating the results, which will be released at the annual “See Us Now” event in April.
TNOYS and Texas Appleseed’s participation in the See Us Now youth survey exemplifies the strong collaborative spirit that TNOYS fosters for youth serving agencies in the state. “TNOYS does an amazing job of serving as a collaborator allowing organizations to receive information and unite on issues that benefit from a joint response,” said Promise House CEO Ashley Lind. “One example is the Emergency Shelter Task Force that hosts calls enabling organizations coping with similar issues to come together and brainstorm solutions, fostering mutual benefits from our collective experiences.”
Lind also pointed to TNOYS’ policy advocacy on behalf of its members as being an important benefit of membership. “It is important to understand what is happening in our government. TNOYS’ efforts in this realm amplify the impact of individual voices and thereby serve as a valuable resource promoting systemic change,” Lind said.
Youth homelessness issues were a big part of TNOYS legislative agenda during the 85th Texas Legislative Session in 2017 and will continue to be a focus in upcoming advocacy work. Efforts such as the See Us Now youth survey Promise House organized last month are critical to informing that advocacy, and TNOYS is excited to continue learning from Promise House’s efforts to better understand the needs of the youth it serves and share that knowledge with policymakers and the other organizations in our network.