Controlled Chaos: Running a Transitional Living Program

Helping young people move out on their own. That's the larger goal of every transitional living program (TLP), and Matt Schnars, who directs the Preparation for Independent Living Program at Haven House Services in Raleigh, North Carolina, always keeps it in mind. "'Independent' means obtaining and maintaining market-rate rental housing," he says. "If we're able to help them get education and employment, that helps them maintain housing."

Sounds straightforward. But the devil’s in the details. Just ask Theresa Nolan,director of runaway and homeless youth services at Green Chimneys Children’s Services in New York City, how challenging it is to teach young people everything they need to live independently in an 18-month program. “Success isn’t necessarily 18 months, a new apartment, a fabulous new life,” she says.

A proud GED graduate at Haven House services in Raleigh, North Carolina.Rather, it’s the smaller successes that make Nolan’s work worthwhile: a young person graduating high school or getting a General Educational Development certificate (GED), moving in with a roommate or family members, getting a job and saving some money, or learning how to listen or how to manage stress and time.

Because chaos often has governed thelives of clients entering a transitionalliving setting, programs must offer some level of stability and structureand emphasize skills building. This article breaks down the main aspects of managing a transitional living program into six areas: screening, mental health and substance abuse counseling, lifeskills training, education and job training, aftercare, and staff issues.

Staff at federally funded transitional living programs take a variety of approaches to addressing each area. Local variables—such as employers willing to hire young people, the choice of public schools, the number of nearby colleges and universities, the cost of rent, and the proximity of support services such as healthcare, child care, and counseling—also lead to differences among transitional living programs.

National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth | 5515 Security Lane, Suite 800 | North Bethesda, MD 20852 | (301) 608-8098 |