In 2009, one Rotarian was overwhelmed when he read about the struggles homeless teens in the West Valley face each day just to stay in high school. The fact that these kids had nowhere to go and no safety net was unacceptable. Working with his Rotary and local churches, they established Homeless Youth Connection (HYC) in 2010. In that first year, 47 students experiencing homelessness received support with basic needs from an agency who no longer viewed them as invisible. Since then, HYC has grown, and now provides services and programs designed to help homeless teens achieve a successful, self-sufficient future. HYC is very excited to report that we have surpassed our goal of serving 600 homeless youth this fiscal year. As of today, we have served 626 homeless youth, totaling more than 2,000 students since 2010.
Thirty percent of the students we serve are known as unaccompanied youth. These are the students who are not attached to a home or family; they are couch surfing, sleeping in parks, or in and out of shelters, all while still attending high school. To address the housing needs of these youth, HYC implemented a Host Family program. Host homes are a low-cost, community-engaging strategy to address the immediate housing need without incurring the high costs of operating an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. This year, we have 48 youth participating in the Host Family program. All of them have a safe and stable living environment, and are doing well. We anticipate a few more youth will need housing assistance before the end of our fiscal year in June.
Below you will find the story of just one of the many students served by HYC, and how our involvement can make a lasting impact on a student who had no choice in the situation they were forced into.
Student story
Maria is a 15-year-old Hispanic female who attends Williams Field High School. She lived in Puerto Rico for most of her life, until she was evacuated and moved to Arizona in 2017 after a hurricane. Maria came into HYC’s program in November 2017. She is a vibrant young woman who has experienced a great deal of trauma related to the hurricane that decimated her home and community. In January of 2018, Maria disclosed to HYC’s staff that she had been self-injuring herself to deal with the pain of her traumatic experiences.  In addition, HYC staff learned that Maria has a learning disability, which creates difficulty in understanding mathematic concepts and functions. Through HYC, Maria received encouragement to disclose her self-harm behavior to her mother. Maria and her mother actively began working with HYC’s clinical case manager for short-term support and to help her transition to longer-term community mental health services. In addition, HYC has helped her to receive the necessary academic support for her learning disability, and occasionally provides her with clothing, hygiene and food support cards.
Homeless Youth Connection is excited to be a part of this year’s District 5495 Rotary Conference. HYC will have a table in the House of Friendship room, and we invite all who would like to hear more about how our program is making a difference in your neighborhood. We partner with more than 75 high schools across Maricopa County, and we are making strides to improve the lives of students who reside in your community. We can’t do this alone; it takes a community who is invested in its people to make change. We hope you might be a part of this change, and it can start by just offering to listen. We would be more than happy to share our story with your Rotary club during one of your weekly meetings. If interested, please send an email to We hope you will join our efforts as we end the cycle of chronic homelessness by investing in the future of homeless youth. If you have further questions or comments, please visit our website at or call our office at 623.374.3747.