Doorway to hope: A transition home for homeless young men
Volunteers of America enlists public and private partnerships to fill critical gap.
Published: April 21, 2014 09:25PM
Updated: April 21, 2014 08:11PM
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Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune Twenty one-year-old Felype Pagan, center, reflects on his intermitent homeless life in Salt Lake City for the past few years while sitting in the Transition Youth Home kitchen in Salt Lake City which recently opened. Nick Diachun, program manager, left, and Zach Bale of Volunteeers of America listen to his story. Pagan now has his own room in the new facility, where he hopes to save money to eventually move into regular housing. He works a job with an uneven schedule making it hard to budget expenses from week to week. The home, which officially opens Wednesday, will serve homeless men from 18-23.

It’s a home for homeless young men that prepares them for a life off the streets.

The Volunteers of America, in conjunction with a number of public and private partners, will officially open its new “Transition Youth Home” Wednesday in Salt Lake City.

Young men aged 18 through 23 will be housed in the 14-bedroom facility in central city and offer a “supportive path from the street to self-sufficiency,” said Zach Bale, chief development officer for VOA.

Those accepted as residents must be referred by a homeless-care-provider organization. Walk-ins are not accepted.

VOA is looking to house clients who have a high-school diploma or who are close to earning a GED and are working or have work experience, said Nick Diachun, program manager. Clients must work or study 40 hours per week.

“We want to provide a safe and stable and consistent environment to help people live their lives,” Diachun said, “and move forward with whatever they are working toward.”

Among the first clients at the transition home is Felype Pagan, 21, who has been homeless, off and on, since he was 17.

He’s had all kinds of jobs and currently buses tables at a downtown hotel restaurant.

“In the jobs I can get, I don’t make enough to cover the cost of rent and food,” he said. “Getting new clothes is out of reach.”

Pagan has been couch surfing, roaming the streets and “living on the kindness of friends” since he can remember. Staying in his own room at the transition home took a little getting used to, but he says he has now settled in and finds it “quite wonderful.”

His goal is to earn more money so that he can afford his own apartment. “I’d like to be self-sufficient. I’d like to make more money than I’m spending,” he said, noting that his hours at work were reduced recently. “But if I had to pay rent, I wouldn’t have made it last month.”

Living at the transition home is not free. Clients must bring food to the facility, which has its own kitchen and laundry. And they must pay into something called the “Future Savings Contribution Program.”

The first month is free; months two through six are $25 each; months seven through nine are $50; and months 10 through 12 are $75. The second year the contribution goes up $50 every three months from $100 per month to $250 per month.

But, Diachun explained, the client gets all the money back when he leaves the transition home. The plan is designed to help clients with deposits and first and last month rents on an apartment.

The strategy, he explained, is to get the young clients used to paying rent and buying food and working so they can make it on their own.

Many young homeless men remain homeless for years on end, Bale added. This is a bridge from homelessness to success.

“We need more projects like this,” he said. “This is where success happens.”

Although Pagan originally believed his stay at the transition home would be short, he now sees it could take longer.

“I just need to make more money consistently,” he said. “But I won’t lie, I have it better than many homeless kids my age.”

csmart@sltrib.com