Time Out Youth (TOY) provides “Welcome Home Baskets” for LGBTQ youth who have identified housing and scheduled a move-in date, but have found they lack additional needed funding for basic household requirements. “Imagine packing up your belongings and realizing that you have nothing,” Shaq Clarke, TOY’s Youth Housing Specialist, says. “When folks are housed, they’re typically walking into an empty home.” 

Several of TOY’s patrons are coming from stressful home environments, often having experienced homelessness before encountering Clarke’s program. 

Prior to COVID-19, Crisis Assistance provided TOY aid in furniture shopping and larger ticket items; unfortunately, the pandemic has brought these collaborations to halt. Regardless of whether or not partnerships like this are ongoing, youth continue to move into new homes. In these needs, Clarke devised an Amazon-delivered package of items worth $350 overall that includes bedding, kitchen and bathroom supplies, toiletries and bedroom basics. 

Recently or soon-to-be housed individuals may choose their preferred color scheme, selecting shades for things like bathroom mats and bedspreads. TOY is always in need of toiletry items, particularly ethnic products for black and brown youth who are houseless. Gift cards to local grocery stores are also a major asset. Clarke encourages those wanting to donate Walmart or Target cards to do so, messaging them at SClarke@timeoutyouth.org with any questions. 

Clarke hopes to expand, eventually branching out into larger items such as tables, beds and chairs. However, the biggest obstacle in doing so is storage. With a majority of young people moving without access to a truck, there is no way for them to shuttle mattresses or sofas to their new home. A goal of TOY is to partner with a moving company, like U-Haul, so that they may begin stocking apartments with substantially-sized and long-lasting furniture. 

Clarke’s current aim is to ensure that there is an influx of all Welcome Home items at the Center. Clarke believes that waiting for Amazon deliveries once an individual has already moved in can be frustrating and take away from the experience of liberty that should come with having one’s own place. “We work with young people so that they feel good about their space,” Clarke says. “We want them to be able to call it home.”

Anyone wanting to donate may fund a partial basket or a single item. Clarke explains that no gift is too small. “Providing something is better than not donating anything.” 

To learn more about the Welcome Home Basket needs, go to timeoutyouth.org/welcomehome

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