Megan Gibbard Kline
Director, A Way Home America
Who or what inspires you to do your work?
I was fortunate to be a part of a family who accepted me when I came out as gay at 16. When I was in my 20s I worked at a young adult shelter and met many young people my age who had had a different experience—peers who had also come out to their family but who were kicked out or forced out of their home. I came to realize the insanity of this—you are supported as a young person or not, you experience homelessness or not—due to circumstance. Luck. Realizing this, I could either rationalize this discrepancy in some untrue way, or I could work to address this inequity. Ending youth homelessness has been a vocation and calling of mine ever since.
If we are successful, paint a picture of what America will look like five years from now.
When we are successful, youth homelessness will be rare, brief if it occurs at all, and will only occur one time.
Rare—When we are successful, our communities will notice warning signs of housing instability and homelessness early on. Schools, libraries, communities will be equipped to notice a young person struggling and refer them and their family to supports to prevent the crisis of homelessness whenever possible.
Brief—If homelessness does occur, communities will have the resources to intervene right away—on night one—to find a safe and stable place for each young person.
And One Time—Youth will be quickly connected with the services they identify needing. We will follow the young person’s lead – trusting that they are the expert in their own life.
And, all of our community supports will be tailored to be particularly supportive to youth of color and LGBTQ young people, understanding that these young people make up the preponderance of young people in most communities. When we do so, we know we’ve built better systems and support for all young people experiencing homelessness.
What do you wish everyone knew about homelessness?
I wish that everyone knew how remarkable young people are. Every young person.
I often ask folks doing work on youth homelessness “what do you believe about young people?” Because these beliefs shape your approach, you should know what they are. Do you believe that young people are the experts on their own life or do you believe that an adult knows better? Do you believe that young people can make it to their great life—whatever that is, whatever their passions turn out to be—with sufficient support from the community? Do you believe each young person is incredibly valuable?
The opportunity to support young people as they figure out the path forward in their own life is one of the greatest privileges in my life. I am driven, and I believe we need to be driven, to ensure every youth and young adult has the safe housing and supports to chart their own course.