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report to the




3 Letter from the Executive Director 4 Impacting 8 Learning 11 Growing 16 Improving 18 Your Impact 20 We Are

2 ¡ HQ Report to the Community 2016

We will continue to be bold, digging deeper, pressing into the uncomfortable, listening well but not stopping there.


That’s what I commit to you in this report. As our first full fiscal year moves into the rearview mirror, I am struck with both great humility and pride. Humble because I am privileged to be part of the HQ movement, and a community that has stepped up big to support it. And proud of the work this beautiful team does each day, proud of the youth we have gotten to know.

We will fight off the inherent drive and temptation for self-preservation and replace it with a desire to see others succeed. We will take steps toward collective equity and justice, being honest, even when it hurts. These are things we value; things we want to share with you.

So while this report is a snapshot of what we learned, what we are working to improve, and how we plan to move through this next year, it’s also an invitation—no, more than that—a request. Will you join us in by adding your piece to the puzzle? Will you help create a community where every single citizen feels supported, welcomed and affirmed? Because Yet, the weight of what’s left to do sits then, and only then, will we reach our between the humility and pride; there’s full potential. work to be done within our walls and throughout our community. Shandra Steininger, Executive Director HQ Report to the Community 2016 · 3


At HQ, we’re all about relationships. We believe that youth need to know they are wanted and belong before anything else. HQ is that place, and it all starts with drop-in.

4 ¡ HQ Report to the Community 2016


We recognize safety means something different to each of our members at HQ. Rather than defining it for them, we build relationships and help youth learn to be safe with others by building community among youth—a community where everyone belongs.


Understanding is at the heart of welcoming. We understand the barriers youth face. We believe in restorative justice, and forgive members when they mess up. Members and staff work together to make it right, in the same way that we hope to be forgiven when we mess up.


We’re trading passive acceptance for active celebration. This means uplifting diversity. It means affirming who youth are. It means turning the spotlight on those who’ve been kept out of it. And it means continually working to transform HQ into the kind of place where no one has to worry about being different.

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youth became HQ members since we opened



youth became HQ members last fiscal year


of HQ members are people of color

For youth of color, systemic racism causes them to live in the intersections of poverty, inadequate medical care, family disconnection, criminal justice involvement, poor education, and mental health issues at disproportionate rates. The number of youth of color at HQ—80% of HQ members, compared to 40% of the City of Grand Rapids1—indicates larger systemic issues.


of HQ members identify as LGBTQ+

The issue is not that there are 645 youth experiencing homelessness. It’s that there are youth experiencing homelessness. These are youth who feel betrayed and forgotten by their community.

Added barriers also exist for LGBTQ+ youth, who—in embracing their sexuality or gender identity—often experience rejection by their families or communities. These youth are frequently met with discrimination and barriers when accessing community resources that fail to affirm their identities. Accessing community resources becomes risky. Will they see people who look like them at these agencies? Will they be met with understanding and affirmation, or discrimination and judgment? Will they be able to get what they need, or will they continue to be ignored? There are youth who we can’t afford to neglect any longer. These youth are part of our community, and ignoring them doesn’t make them have any less value or potential. It doesn’t make the “problem” go away. Our community is stronger when we’re together, and that includes all of us.

1: Source: Community Resource Institute 6 · HQ Report to the Community 2016


Shared meals are central to what we do. Food’s not just a basic right or resource, but the foundation for relationships built here. Making meals for HQ is a way for the community to imagine a better future for HQ youth and say “yes” to showing them love and support. Serving meals is a way for volunteers and members to connect. And eating lasagna with a nurse can be the spark of trust that inspires a member to ask questions about their health they would otherwise not feel safe to ask. Food is our foundation, food is our future, food is hope on a plate.

Music Central

In the beginning, HQ had one guitar that was played and passed between staff and youth. Four guitars and an antique piano later, HQ is full of song. So many members are musical; we love that HQ can be a place where youth feel free to sing, to jam, to find a piece of themselves that they never knew existed in a guitar.

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We believe good data is the key. Data is qualitative and quantitative. More complex than numbers or statistics, data is anything that helps us understand something else more completely. Holistic data is the key to understanding the barriers youth face in their quest for stable housing.

8 ¡ HQ Report to the Community 2016

WHAT WE LEARNED In the beginning

We researched other communities locally, nationally, and around the world, examining trends, findings, and methods. We applied what we learned to our research, and what we learned painted a more complete picture of what it means to be young and experiencing homelessness.

There are five pathways to chronic adult homelessness: substance abuse,

mental health issues, family breakdown, housing crisis, and being young when first experiencing unsafe/unstable housing. Through Human Centered Design activities, we realized that many youth experience ALL of these pathways, which makes restabilizing even more difficult.


The current system fails youth.

In everything from intake to assessment, prioritization was built for the adult population. We knew things would have to change if we were going to serve youth well, and committed ourselves to leading the conversation around youths’ experience of homelessness and supporting efforts to make a system that works for youth.

Additionally, the more time youth spend on the street, the more they adopt survival mechanisms that alienate them from the rest of society. Breaking the cycle of homelessness early becomes even more critical.

Three types of barriers keep youth from accessing services: youths’

unwillingness to engage (e.g., going to an emergency shelter), policies set in place by service providers (e.g., religious requirements) or outside challenges, like funding obligations. HQ Report to the Community 2016 ¡ 9


When we first set out, we wanted to create a technology-based solution.

We imagined this solution would connect youth to services, find the gaps in community services, and empower other service providers. As many youth have and use smart phones, we thought a fully automated system that eliminated human error and bias would be that solution.

Shifting Focus

With help from the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, we used Human Centered Design to gather data that helped us understand youths’ lives. Youth took photos, made art, and expressed latent needs through various HCD activities. Through these activities with youth and consultations with tech experts, we landed on what technology our youth and community needed: A web application that includes people and relationships.


This web application will be an online resource that acts like a dating website in the sense that it will connect youth to the resources they need based on their information, expressed needs, and preferences. We’re currently developing the back-end, and are excited for a prospective launch in 2017.

10 · HQ Report to the Community 2016

100 18 85+

youth participants community partners art pieces created

HQ Report to the Community 2016 ¡ 11



The Education + Employment Initiative was born when we saw a gap between the employment services that existed in the community and what youth were taking advantage of. Many of our members had résumés, but weren’t getting interviews when they applied for jobs. Or, they would get jobs, but then lose them quickly. We found youth were faltering on soft workplace skills. With coaching, youth began to thrive.

12 · HQ Report to the Community 2016

Youth made it clear that personalized, youth-centered coaching was a real need, so we designed this initiative to meet needs on three levels:


Securing vital documents, creating résumés and cover letters.


Interview preparation, application assistance, connections to employers, and case management for both youth and their employer to keep them employed when challenges arise.


Hiring Youth Ambassadors at HQ who experience the greatest barriers to employment—they lack experience, have a record, or have other needs that require more intensive investment from our team.

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31 121 20 2 8

14 ¡ HQ Report to the Community 2016

employer partners in eight industries youth directly assisted (vital docs, job prep, placements, etc.) youth connected to gainful employment youth hired at HQ youth participating in committee work

He has also been a great teacher for youth and a great [employment] committee leader. I am proud to say I was part of both. Lastly, I might add that he is a role model to me and I have learned a lot from him, like job-seeking tips, résumé building, schooling, and future goals. There’s been just a bunch of stuff that is personal that he has taught me, too. He has helped me discover what I want to do in my life.


“Matt,” an older youth, has been coming to HQ for two years and has been extremely involved in the Education + Employment program. He’s now enrolled in his first year at a local community college. These are his words. Me and Samuel have done a lot [at HQ] to better my future. Samuel has helped me out in my job seeking and helped me to get multiple jobs. He has been a counselor and a role model to me and I have learned a lot from him.

I want people to know this is the best program that I have ever been in [and the best program] for young souls like me. Shandra is a really great person and doesn’t run this program for personal gain. The staff there are welcoming and actually want to help us and see how we are doing. I’m just glad that there is finally a place where the youth like me can go and get what they need and get their future going. I guess I would just ask you reading this to support HQ because the more support the better.

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HQ isn’t perfect. We mess up a lot and part of our job is being honest when that happens. Whether it’s modifying our language or our building, we’re willing to be vulnerable about the things that need to be changed. Because even when it’s scary and even when it’s hard, it’s change that’s for the better.

16 · HQ Report to the Community 2016

THE PHRASE DATA COLLECTION Last summer, we felt some “RUNAWAY + pressure to gather and HOMELESS YOUTH” share data about HQ youth. Youth made it clear that they disliked being called “homeless,” and that this adjective is loaded, limited, and riddled with stigma. These words are still part of our logo, but we peeled them off the front of our building per our members’ request. Also, changing our language to say “youth experiencing homelessness” affirms youths’ identity outside of the tough situation they’re in right now.


In our first year of existence, HQ publications featured So, we added questions to a sad, scruffy-looking our membership agreement youth crouched with head about LGBTQ+, race, foster in hands. Members might care, and the juvenile justice sometimes look or feel like system. These pieces of this, but that’s not who they information are critical for are. the community, but are often red flags for youth, The rest of the world already especially if their record, assumes they’re sad and sexual identity, or race has dirty; we want to tell a been a barrier before. Prior different story—one that’s to adding these questions to empowering, accurate, and our membership agreement, free of stereotypes. So— we gathered this information again at youths’ request—we via relationships over time. scrapped that photo. It’s been replaced with images After we added those of HQ, youth art, and other questions, fewer youth were empowering imagery. willing to answer them than before. We have stats to share now, but they came at a price. This instance illustrates the fact that we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding equitable and low-barrier data collection as a community. HQ Report to the Community 2016 · 17


We love our supporters. Volunteers, donors, and friends of HQ make so much magic happen. From serving up meals in the kitchen to holding sock drives, sorting donations, or giving financially, you make HQ a safe and welcoming place to be and we truly couldn’t do it without you.

18 ¡ HQ Report to the Community 2016



Program Direct Costs $369,484

Faith Communities $101,500

Fundraising $1,985

Corporate $128,000

Individual Giving $283,206

Marketing/ Communications $17,080 Operations $62,966

Foundation Grants $18,750

Facilities $33,780


$56,613 1,823 $27,345 108 14

value of in-kind donations hours of work donated to HQ; equal to 45.5 40-hour work weeks (or one full-time staff) The value of time donated: 1,823 hours x $15/hour individual volunteers with an average of 20 hours/person volunteer medical professionals

Special thanks to Mars Hill Bible Church for the gift in-kind of HQ’s building. We now own our facilities outright, which is an amazing gift and asset for our organization. We appreciate you! HQ Report to the Community 2016 ¡ 19


We’re intentional in building our team. We seek out those whose philosophy aligns with HQ’s beliefs and values. This is so important because our team is the heartbeat of HQ. Having board, staff and volunteers that represent the diversity of HQ members is important to us to ensure that we create an environment that is shaped by a variety of lived experiences and perspectives. We’re proud of our team, and recognize there’s still work to be done when it comes to diversity and inclusion at HQ, work that we’re committed to.

20 · HQ Report to the Community 2016





Race/ Ethnicity

Biracial Black/Af. Am. Hispanic/Latinx White


No Yes


Gender Identity

Female Transgender Other Gender nonconforming

YOUTH Race/ethnicity: Asian: 1%,

VOLUNTEERS Race/ethnicity: Hispanic/Latinx: 5% white: 95%,

LGBTQ: yes: 26%, no: 74% Gender: male: 54%, female: 44%, transgender: 1%, other: 1%

LGBTQ: yes: 20%, no: 80% LGBTQ: yes: 42%, no: 58% LGBTQ: yes: 0%, no: 100% Gender: male: 10% Gender: male: 33%, Gender: male: 62%, female: 81%, female: 67% female: 38% transgender: 5%, gendernonconforming: 4%

biracial: 11%, black: 43%, Hispanic/Latinx: 16%, white: 29%,

STAFF BOARD Race/ethnicity: biracial: 8%, Race/ethnicity: black: 25% black: 17%, Hispanic/ white: 75%, Latinx: 17%, white: 58%

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320 State Street SE Grand Rapids, MI 49503 616.406.3945

Grand Rapids HQ Report to the Community 2016  

HQ's Report to the Community: What we've done, how far we come, and raw honesty about how we've messed up and are moving forward as an organ...