This month special guests volunteered at Avenues’ Pride booth. Tim and Katie are hosts in Avenues’ ConneQT program. For three months a 17-year-old youth, Angel, has been living with them. The youth, who uses he/they pronouns, is the first young person Tim and Katie have hosted.
“We’ve wanted to be in the host home program for a long time, but, you know, we were nervous. We wanted to be perfect,” Katie said. “During the pandemic, we were like, we are actually going to do this now. No excuses. We have this big house and an entire basement that a youth can live in.”
Katie works with adults with mental illness as a social worker. She uses she/her pronouns and identifies as bisexual and queer. Tim is an elementary school teacher who uses he/him pronouns. He’s an ally to the LGBTQI+ community. They’ve been together for thirteen years and own a home in Ramsey County. Before Angel moved in with them, they lived alone with their cat, Betty, and dog, Toto. Betty’s an aggressive cuddler.
Last November Tim and Katie decided that they were ready to host. Like all hosts in ConneQT, they completed an initial application and started the online trainings on power, privilege, gender and other themes. After completing the training, they created their own bios to be seen by potential youth in the program. In ConneQT, LGBTQI+ youth look through these bios of potential hosts to select a host home that feels right to them. Youth are not “placed” in ConneQT, and youth have the power to decide where and with who they would like to live.
“We used a picture of us with Betty and Toto,” Tim said about his and Katie’s bio. “I think that helped our chances of being picked.”
Before Angel moved in, they got to meet Tim and Katie and see their potential home. Betty was very cuddly with Angel and ConneQT staffers Ryan and Rosie helped make all feel comfortable. Angel moved in Katie and Tim’s basement spare room at the end of April.
“The first night that Angel was with us, I had my cell phone right next to the bed so if they had an emergency or needed anything, it’s right there. I’m ready!” Katie laughed. “So then we get a text at five in the morning, and I didn’t hear it, but Tim was like, Katie, your phone! So I look at the text from Angel and it says, Tell me when you guys wake up. I made you something. We tried to lay back down but we were too excited to sleep! So we told them at six that we were ready.”
Angel, who is a talented artist, had made them a thoughtful card. Since then, the three of them have been taking it day by day to get to know each other and co-habitat. They’ve met each other’s friends, shared meals, shopped together, and found a rhythm at home.
“I’m continually learning,” Katie said. “At the beginning we had these clear expectations and boundaries that we said once. If you’re going to eat in your room, vacuum once a week. Well, when someone is moving in, and everything is changing around them, you need to hear that expectation in a time and space when you’re able to hear it. And you may need to hear it more than once.”
Katie and Tim said they’ve also learned about communication, ageism, assumptions, and offering choices. It’s important to Angel that they are independent, and Katie and Tim have learned to offer choices to share power and autonomy.
“An example is when we had to contact the insurance company to transfer insurance for Angel,” Tim explained. “We asked, do you want to do that together? Do you want to do that tonight or tomorrow? Do you want me to listen in? Do you want Rosie to help with it? Do you have a friend you’d rather have help?”
Overall, hosting has been a positive experience for Katie and Tim. They plan to host again and be a forever resource to Angel. They also recommend that folks with the right mindset think about becoming hosts.
“You can’t want it (hosting a youth) from a white savior position,” Tim said. “Your anchor has to be that you want another person in your home, and the life, joy and messiness that comes with that. We want to be cheerleaders for the next generation.”
ConneQT has been supporting queer and trans youth for more than twenty years. The program was created by the LGBTQI+ community in response to the disproportionate number of queer and trans youth experiencing homelessness. ConneQT houses up to ten youth at a time, and it continually in need of new hosts like Katie and Tim.