Since 2019, Steelcase Foundation has partnered with AYA Youth Collective to support its place-based Comprehensive Health Initiative (CHI) for Youth, which addresses social determinants of health by filling gaps in existing health services for young people experiencing housing instability or literal homelessness through two three-year grants totaling $540,000. Utilizing AYA’s drop-in center as a hub, youth are connected to over 30 community partners co-located in the space providing a range of mental and physical health resources and supports in a trusted setting, removing barriers to accessing these vital resources. The goal of the Comprehensive Health Initiative is to help youth obtain stability as they define it by removing health barriers on their journey to thrive.
CHI was created at the request of homeless youth expressing a need for access to health care, specifically physical and mental health support. Providers are available onsite, wear plainclothes, and participate in drop-in activities to build relationships with youth, reducing fear of engaging in their services in the future. Executive director Lauren VanKeulen credits the program’s ability to build relationships with youth for its success in connecting them to other resources, saying, “I love working with young people because there’s so much potential. If you can show them something is possible, they’ll have a belief that there’s something else possible in their lives.”
She and KJ Tucker, director of supportive programming, see a lot of potential for the program to not only more effectively serve youth, but also share their learnings system-wide for greater impact across the health care system. To date, CHI has provided 4,200 individual health and wellness engagements, signaling an unmet need in our community. AYA is committed to partnering with community organizations explore how best to meet these needs while centering its youth in the solutions. We’re excited to continue support of the Comprehensive Health Initiative and AYA’s efforts to champion solutions to better serve homeless youth in our community to ensure they have the resources and tools they need to thrive.