How We Work


Think about yourself: When you’re in a tough spot, isn’t it easy to think no one cares? And isn’t it hard to ask for help? It’s no different for young people dealing with a crisis that imperils their housing. Living in their car can seem less scary than the risk that people they could ask to say with might say no. CloseKnit assumes that every young person, even those facing homelessness, has people who cherish them. We just need to learn how to ask. The Circle Map is our starting point. Our approach helps youth honor their deep need for connection and belonging, repair relationships, and build their own networks of support. 


We talked with youth facing homelessness who were informally staying with an adult who was at least 10 years older than they were, such as an extended relative, a neighbor, or a friend’s parent. 

The youth most often described their host in terms of family—and often, the family they’d never had: 
The relationship I have with [my friend’s father] is one I’ve always wanted with my parents but I still don’t have with them…he gives really good advice…asks me how school is going. He’s, like, really supportive. And he constantly talks about how he wants me to go to college. So he really wants me to better myself.


We’re the first to seek out the perspective of adult hosts—the “couch owners” who provide a place for young people to stay who, for whatever reason, can’t live with their families. 

Hosts describe what they offer as much more than shelter
I think “housing”—that’s a bed to sleep in, and for some, yes, that’s the bare minimum of what we can do. But to me a home is a place where you are loved and where you’ve got guidance and where you’ve got rules and where there are consequences and where you learn things and where you laugh….
“Beverly” on hosting her daughter’s best friend

They also describe challenges 
How do I set these boundaries that ‘If you’re not in treatment, you’re not going to be able to stay with me forever?’ I don’t know how to have that conversation with him. So support around that would be good…for both of our sides. 
— “Denice” on hosting her best friend’s son

I remember feeling some resentment towards her parents…so it would have been helpful to me to bounce that off some other parent who has maybe been in that situation with a bonus child….
—“Beverly” on hosting her daughter’s best friend

Your electric bill goes up….clothing bill goes up….
— “Barb” on hosting her daughter’s classmate

To hear more, check out our research paper online, “Beyond a Bed: Supportive Connections Forged Between Youth Who Are Couch Hopping and Adult Hosts,” published in the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal (April 2020).


Resourceful youth who’ve found caring adults with whom to stay deserve more than a congratulations. And people who’ve stepped up to host a youth in need deserve more than a thank you. These arrangements deserve investment and help. 

CloseKnit has collaborated with drop-in resource centers to pilot our “chosen family” hosting model to stabilize informal hosting arrangements. Case coaches:

  • Assist youth and hosts in creating an agreement about shared expectations so that everyone starts—and stays—on the same page
  • Help broker dialogue between the property owner and a host who is a renter, so that the youth can live openly
  • Listen, help solve problems, and connect youth and hosts with community resources
  • Administer financial stipends

The model assists youth and young adults 16- to 24-years old and the adults they are staying with who are at least 10 years older than they are. The chosen family hosting model only supports arrangements where young people are physically, emotionally, and sexually safe. 

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