Dome Days is an event that allows young people in the state facing homelessness and housing insecurities.
In early March, the Michigan youth homeless networks travel to Lansing with a group of young people facing or having faced homelessness to tell stories about housing insecurities in the state.
Bobby Dorigo Jones is the vice president of outreach for Michigan’s Children, which brings organizations together that serve youth without housing.
“We make sure that networks like people who serve runaway homeless youth are using the power of stories and personal connection to help lawmakers understand what’s going on the ground where they might not learn about that elsewhere.” —Bobby Dorigo Jones, Michigan’s Children
Jones says one of the best ways to get the message across to lawmakers about the struggles of young people in the state facing homelessness is directly from the teens
“We know that there’s no better advocate for young people than young people themselves,” Jones says.
Listen: Young people facing housing challenges advocate for themselves through Dome Days.
Jones says they hear many stories about the barriers young people face, such as having to travel long distances to find a safe place to stay. “This can especially be the case for young people who maybe grow up in more socially conservative areas. who identify as LGBTQ, that is a very highly represented group of young people who experience homelessness.”
There are also positive stories, such as when youth find help and stay connected with school and family. “So we hear about the barriers, we hear about successes, we also just hear about what young people who experienced homelessness want for their lives, because they want to thrive, they want connections, they want to see success and be part of the communities just like everybody else who doesn’t have to experience that specific barrier,” Jones says.
The Whitmer administration has made it a priority to focus on the youth juvenile system in the state. Jones says investments in juvenile justice reform are an important part of prevention. For example, a young person may struggle when leaving an out-of-home placement and is returning to their community. They may not have a strong safety net or stable housing. “The more that we can invest in services that divert youth from the juvenile justice system that find community-based solutions, when juveniles find themselves involved with justice, we can prevent homelessness in the future.”
Jones continues: “We need this kind of immediate investment to make sure that whenever somebody falls through the cracks, there is somebody there in any county to state to support. But we do also need to continue to invest in services like juvenile justice reform, in family housing vouchers to make sure that we’re also preventing the causes of homelessness. Those two things go hand in hand.”
Jones says Dome Days is an opportunity to learn more about the challenges young people without homes face.
“Michigan’s Children makes sure that networks who serve runaway homeless youth are using the power of stories and personal connection to help lawmakers understand what’s going on on the ground, where they might not learn about that elsewhere,” Jones says. “And to meet young people themselves who’ve experienced this because we know that there’s no better advocate for young people than young people themselves.”