Innovative program aims to end youth homelessness in Greater Cincinnati

Innovative program aims to end youth homelessness in Greater Cincinnati

This article from Lighthouse President & CEO Paul Haffner appeared in the MY VIEW section of the Cincinnati Business Courier on June 26, 2019

Every night in Hamilton County, many young people have no family to eat dinner with, no bed to sleep in, or no place they feel safe. Hundreds become homeless each year. Arianna was just 17 years old when she became homeless. She was kicked out of her house as she was about to start her senior year. No young person should go through this.

The good news is our community now has an innovative program designed to help every young person with access to safe, affordable and stable housing. KEYS to a Future without Youth Homelessness (KEYS) is the newest collaborative effort by our community to prevent and soon end youth homelessness. Lighthouse Youth & Family Services acts as the lead agency, working in partnership with Strategies to End Youth Homelessness, Children’s Law Center and the Family Housing Partnership (Bethany House, Interfaith Hospitality Network of Greater Cincinnati, Salvation Army and YWCA Greater Cincinnati). Many other organizations will also partner with us.

A $3.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides 80% of KEYS project funding for two years, with the potential for renewal if we achieve certain rigorous outcomes. To be successful, we must reduce the number of youth coming into homelessness by over 50%, reduce the average length of stay in shelter from 38 to 21 days, increase the rate of successful exits to permanent housing to 80%, and reduce the percentage of youth who return to homelessness within two years to 10%. We look forward to delivering periodic updates on our progress toward these goals.

Of course, as with all federal grants, there is a significant string attached. HUD requires our community to match 20% of its funding. This ensures a collaborative approach between public and private organizations and enhances local knowledge of the work. That means Lighthouse must raise approximately $395,000 this year and in 2020 to be able to leverage these federal dollars.

A generous leadership gift of $70,000 from the Daley Family Foundation will go toward the required match for our work at Lighthouse. Clayton and Meredythe Daley are committed to helping young people have the security of a safe place to call home. They are hoping their foundational gift will inspire others in the business community to get involved. With our support, young people who have survived some of life’s worst challenges will receive what they need to thrive: stable housing, permanent connections, education, employment, and well-being.

KEYS is a program years in the making. It’s the result of research, community collaboration and, most importantly, the voices of young people who have experienced homelessness, including Arianna’s. And less than four months after its launch, the results are evident. More than 100 young people have already received the help they needed when faced with being homeless.

If you’d like to know more, contact Jessica Wabler at or 513-487-7101.

Only by working together can we help every young person have a place to call home.