Helping homeless young adults get back on track

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The face of homelessness is changing and it's getting younger.

"I was a couch surfer."

Twenty-three-year-old Leroy Bailey never lived on the street but he didn't have a home. He managed, though, to get his GED and made it to college but dropped out because he was broke and on borrowed time - relying on friends for meals and a place to sleep.

"I just wanted my own bed, someplace where I can get comfortable and know that I am safe," he said.

Finally fed up with his situation, he found Friendship Place. A privately funded organization that fast tracks the homeless into jobs in 60 days and homes in 90.

"When you're crafting your own model with private funding it's really a lot easier," said Friendship Place Executive Director Jean-Michel Giraud. "The last thing somebody on the street want to hear is it's going to take us six months to get to you."

Their motto: move fast; and never assume just because you're homeless you're helpless. They even have a closet of donated interview attire ready to go.

"They are smart with skill and that led us to take another direction at AimHire, and to assume that everybody is employable from the beginning," explained Giraud.

"This is the quickest game of catch up I've ever played," added Leroy Bailey.

Launched in January, the Before30 program works specifically with young people ages 17 to 29 to help them reach their goals, whether that's housing, school, or a job. Bailey joined in April.

"I'm looking for a second job. They helped me with my first," he said. "And I'd like to get my own place."

Youth Employment Specialist Tiffini Jackson said the program offers a variety of classes, from music to creative writing, to get people engaged. While she was never homeless, she knows the struggle.

"Going to school working three jobs in college so I know how difficult it is to survive on your own," said Jackson.

That leads us to what makes Before30 unique - you see, not everyone is homeless.

"They're definitely on to something here."

Twenty-year-old Francies Stephenson is a senior at University of the District of Columbia and lives with her mom, but still needed a little push.

"There's a point between being a teenager and becoming an adult where young people are just lost," she explained.

Before30 aims to find them and help them find themselves.

"I figure with a year or twos time I will be where I wanted to be years ago," Leroy Bailey said with a smile.

Friendship Place which also operates employment service 'AimHire' is 100 percent privately funded. It takes $500,000 to pay for services annually. Since 2011, AimHire has placed 251 people in jobs, 246 formerly homeless people in permanent homes.


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