Games Project Homeless

The ‘heart and soul’ behind Shelton’s fight to help homeless kids: Small program emerges as statewide model

As Seattle adapts its response to the homelessness crisis, activist groups face uncertain future

Funders and policymakers throughout the nation wish to the Mason County Housing Choices for College students in Transition (HOST) program for inspiration to ending youth homelessness.

Jesús Acosta was one of many hardest youngsters Kim Rinehardt had ever labored with at Shelton’s various highschool — but there he was, strolling as much as the rostrum in ripped denims and Jordans to offer a commencement speech earlier than heading to Central Washington College with scholarships.

“So I’m guessing everyone right here on this crowd has been on a rollercoaster,” Acosta stated to his fellow graduates final June. “Once I moved to Shelton, commencement wasn’t on the finish of my experience. I used to be nervous, alone, scared and coming from a nasty state of affairs to an unknown state of affairs. Quite a bit like driving a curler coaster.”

At the moment, Rinehardt has a photograph of Acosta on her desk. He’s simply certainly one of lots of of youngsters in Mason County that she and HOST have helped off the streets and throughout the commencement stage.

The Seattle Occasions’ Undertaking Homeless is funded by BECU, The Invoice & Melinda Gates Basis, Campion Basis, the Paul G. Allen Household Basis, Raikes Basis, Schultz Household Basis, Seattle Basis, Seattle Mariners, and Starbucks. The Seattle Occasions maintains editorial management over Undertaking Homeless content material.

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There are not any youth shelters within the county, but one in 10 college students in Shelton, the county seat, is homeless — a better fee than Seattle faculties and among the many worst within the state. Most youngsters are doubled-up with one other household or staying in motels, however greater than 100 youngsters live outdoors, in automobiles, or on the road.

Funders and policymakers throughout the nation wish to Rinehardt’s Mason County Housing Choices for College students in Transition (HOST) program for inspiration on ending youth homelessness.

On the desk of Kim Rinehardt (background) sits a  photo of Jesus Acosta, one of her favorite kids to come through the HOST program.  (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)On the desk of Kim Rinehardt (background) sits a  photo of Jesus Acosta, one of her favorite kids to come through the HOST program.  (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

On the desk of Kim Rinehardt (background) sits a photograph of Jesus Acosta, one among her favourite youngsters to return by means of the HOST program. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Occasions)

HOST youngsters are doing nicely: Virtually all the almost 200 college students she has put in host houses graduated on time, and lots of of those that didn’t later returned to complete. Examine that with a 38 % four-year commencement fee for homeless college students on the Shelton Faculty District’s various faculty, CHOICE, and the statewide commencement price of 55 % for homeless college students.

And all that on a shoestring finances that solely pays for 2 part-time staff — Rinehardt included.

Washington officers have been baffled in recent times that even because the financial system has stabilized, youth homelessness shouldn’t be taking place. Philanthropy teams and efforts like Pearl Jam’s charity exhibits are pouring tens of millions into decreasing and ending youth homelessness in elements of the state.

That seek for options has state policymakers taking a look at host house packages like Mason County HOST. Born in Minneapolis, “host houses” are a center floor between youth homeless shelters and foster care. A number household takes in a youth liable to getting into the foster-care system, typically with a stipend to offset prices. There are guidelines — if the youth is beneath 18, a authorized guardian should give consent, and the household taking in a youth needs to be screened.

However there’s much less purple tape and interplay with the courts, which individuals in small cities typically choose, stated Jim Theofelis, director of A Means House Washington, a statewide advocacy group for homeless youth. The mannequin has seen success in cities like Seattle, the place it’s particularly interesting to the LGBTQ group, he stated. (70 % of HOST youngsters determine as homosexual, bi, trans or nonbinary).

Signs hanging on the door in the office of  Kim Rinehardt, executive director of Housing Options for Students in Transition (HOST) at CHOICE alternative high school in Shelton. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)Signs hanging on the door in the office of  Kim Rinehardt, executive director of Housing Options for Students in Transition (HOST) at CHOICE alternative high school in Shelton. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Indicators hanging on the door within the workplace of Kim Rinehardt, government director of Housing Choices for College students in Transition (HOST) at CHOICE various highschool in Shelton. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Occasions)

The HOST strategy

Rinehardt herself stands proud when she drives from Tacoma to Shelton every day for work. She’s a black lesbian, and Mason County is 88 % white. President Donald Trump gained it by 6 proportion factors in 2016.

In her workplace on the second flooring of the CHOICE faculty, there’s a satisfaction flag on the wall, and Rinehardt’s desk has a roll of bathroom paper with the president’s face on every sq.. Subsequent to it’s the image of Acosta.

When a homeless child comes by way of her door, Rinehardt figures out who they might stick with. Are there relations or buddies who may take the child in in the event that they obtained slightly assist with payments or meals? If they’re prepared, she does a background examine and a walk-through of the house.

Rinehardt typically works with Baby Protecting Providers, which asks for her assist putting youngsters for whom different placements haven’t labored out. That isn’t a standard partnership in different elements of the state. There are by no means sufficient foster mother and father in Mason County, in accordance with Kat Scheibner, the CPS supervisor for Mason County. CPS solely works with youngsters as much as 18. Rinehardt can work with youngsters as much as 21.

“There’s this previous saying, a minimum of in youngster welfare,” stated Scheibner. “‘This child simply wants that one individual of their life that may make a distinction.’ And Kim has been that one individual for therefore many youngsters.”

Rinehardt likes to say youngsters by no means depart the HOST program. They’ve gotten jobs, moved, gone to school, however they nonetheless come again to go to and ask for assist. She typically finds herself being a mother to youngsters who can’t depend upon their mother and father.

“The HOST program, fairly truthfully, could be very profitable due to Kim Rinehardt’s coronary heart,” stated Alex Apostle, the superintendent of Shelton Faculty District. “Her coronary heart and soul is in her work, and we profit as a faculty district.”

As Rinehardt works — assembly with youngsters, making calls, doing paperwork — youngsters come via the door intermittently to seize cups of noodles. Virtually 70 % of CHOICE’s scholar physique certified free of charge or reduced-price lunch final yr. When Rinehardt first confirmed up, she began shopping for meals together with her personal cash. As personal donations elevated, they coated it.

Rinehardt works one other job part-time as a result of the price range is so tight. HOST’s price range was solely round $140,000 final yr, and most of that’s personal grants, native and regional.

One child’s story

The primary time Rinehardt met Acosta, he was recent from Arizona and getting ready to homelessness. He had been raised by his grandmother, aunt and uncle. His mother was in jail and his dad was in gangs, in accordance with Acosta, and he received in hassle a lot that his sister paid to convey him as much as reside together with her in Shelton.

However she was struggling herself. She’d been dwelling with a boyfriend, however a breakup was imminent. Rinehardt helped Acosta’s sister with lease help from an identical grant Rinehardt had developed.

After the steadiness half is taken care of, Rinehardt will get to work on serving to the youngsters.

Early on, Acosta received in fights with white youngsters at college. They referred to as him poor as a result of he wore the identical pair of Kevin Durant 7s each day. In the future, a child used a homophobic slur towards Acosta, and Acosta rushed him. Academics pulled them aside earlier than anybody received harm, however Acosta obtained referred to as into the principal’s workplace.

Rinehardt determined to get Acosta busy. He was quickly on the monitor, wrestling and basketball groups at Shelton Excessive, and volunteering at an area soup kitchen. She received him into additional courses after-hours to make amends for credit. Youngsters in Rinehardt’s program can earn as much as $50 a month by maintaining attendance and getting good grades. Acosta began incomes cash and used a few of it to purchase new footwear.

Acosta started to vary. He put power into freestyle rapping, artwork and writing. He began to do rather well in class, so Rinehardt pointed him to scholarships.

Most individuals who knew Acosta have been blown away. “I by no means would have thought that that child would’ve gone to school,” stated Scheibner.

Case manager KeAndra Radchenko, center, and Kim Rinehardt listen to a teacher talk about a student in their Shelton office. Rinehardt works another job because this one is only part-time, and she operates the entire nonprofit on $150,000 a year, but the HOST program has a strong record of getting students to graduation. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)Case manager KeAndra Radchenko, center, and Kim Rinehardt listen to a teacher talk about a student in their Shelton office. Rinehardt works another job because this one is only part-time, and she operates the entire nonprofit on $150,000 a year, but the HOST program has a strong record of getting students to graduation. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Case supervisor KeAndra Radchenko, middle, and Kim Rinehardt take heed to a instructor speak about a scholar of their Shelton workplace. Rinehardt works one other job as a result of this one is just part-time, and she or he operates your complete nonprofit on $150,000 a yr, however the HOST program has a robust report of getting college students to commencement. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Occasions)

The curler coaster of highschool

As senior yr got here to an finish, Acosta received accepted into Central Washington College, and he had interviews for scholarships. However he was nonetheless fiercely unbiased, he was preventing together with his sister greater than ever, and he began smoking weed with a brand new group of pals.

A month earlier than commencement, Acosta informed Rinehardt he was shifting out of his sister’s home and in together with his new buddies. Rinehardt informed him that was the fallacious selection. Acosta stated Rinehardt wanted to take a step again and let him do that half on his personal.

It was arduous, however Rinehardt did it. She handed the final work over to considered one of Acosta’s different mentors and advised them when he wanted to be at

scholarship interviews, what deadlines he wanted to satisfy.

On the commencement ceremony, the place Acosta was picked to be a speaker, Rinehardt hadn’t spoken to him in a month. However he’d gotten the scholarships he wanted. He made it.

“The curler coaster of highschool has taken us all via its ups and downs,” Acosta stated on the podium. “Now we’re (lots of of) ft within the air, wanting down at our future, and it’s proper in entrance of us. We’re about to drop and undergo the most important rides of our lives.”

In that second, Rinehardt knew that he was going to be OK. She began to cry.

“It’s all the time emotional for me with each certainly one of these youngsters as a result of… they deserve it,” Rinehardt stated. “And I’m simply fortunate sufficient to be the one to life-plan. To type of hear the story of their life so far, after which to plan afterwards.”

Kim Rinehardt, executive director of Housing Options for Students in Transition (HOST), follows a board member into her office for a meeting with the entire board Wednesday, Nov. 14.  Rinehardt works out of CHOICE, an alternative school in Shelton. Every day she meets with kids who are struggling with housing, drugs and family members. Almost three-quarters of her kids identify as gay, trans or gender nonconforming, and she operates in a county President Donald Trump won by 6 points in 2016.  (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)Kim Rinehardt, executive director of Housing Options for Students in Transition (HOST), follows a board member into her office for a meeting with the entire board Wednesday, Nov. 14.  Rinehardt works out of CHOICE, an alternative school in Shelton. Every day she meets with kids who are struggling with housing, drugs and family members. Almost three-quarters of her kids identify as gay, trans or gender nonconforming, and she operates in a county President Donald Trump won by 6 points in 2016.  (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Kim Rinehardt, government director of Housing Choices for College students in Transition (HOST), follows a board member into her workplace for a gathering with the whole board Wednesday, Nov. 14. Rinehardt works out of CHOICE, an alternate faculty in Shelton. Each day she meets with youngsters who’re scuffling with housing, medicine and relations. Virtually three-quarters of her youngsters determine as homosexual, trans or gender nonconforming, and she or he operates in a county President Donald Trump gained by 6 factors in 2016. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Occasions)