15-1 The Power of Youth Action Boards in Building the Future Housing Advocacy Movement

By Sid Betancourt, NLIHC

Youth Action Boards (YAB) are local groups dedicated to addressing youth homelessness in their respective communities. These boards typically consist of young adults who have personally experienced homelessness. While each YAB sets its own specific goals, their collective mission is to implement effective strategies tailored to their communities. Recently, NLIHC staff had the opportunity to meet two inspiring young advocates from Kansas, Kenadee Kessler and Adrianna Cogshell, who initially connected while at a shelter and later joined their YAB in Kansas together.

As a young tenant living in an uninhabitable apartment, Adrianna found herself without a home due to difficulties with her landlord. Resorting to couch surfing and paying occasionally for a room in a hotel, Adrianna eventually sought refuge in a Wichita shelter. It was there that she crossed paths with Kenadee.

Like Adrianna, Kenadee had experienced homelessness in Kansas as a young woman. As a result of her experience, she started to work with the Alliance of Overlooked Neighbors, a homeless advocacy group focused on reducing homelessness. She also joined a local Youth Action Board (YAB), advocating for at-risk youth in foster care. “I am super passionate about this line of work because I’m now the person I never realized I needed when I was in the foster care system and then experienced homelessness,” says Kenadee.

At the shelter, Kenadee introduced Adrianna to a number of resources. She also recognized that Adrianna was a perfect candidate for the local YAB. As she learned more about the YAB, Adrianna became a passionate supporter of the group, driven by her desire to see more young individuals actively participating in advocacy work.

Adrianna joined her local YAB because she doesn’t want others to endure the hardships she faced while homeless. Her main motivation is her wish to encourage fellow youth to engage in advocacy. Looking ahead, Adrianna envisions remaining actively involved with the YAB, consistently working to increase youth participation in advocating for housing justice. Additionally, she aspires to see the extension of the youth shelter program beyond 30 days, which would ensure that individuals like her have sufficient time and resources to secure a home.

“People don’t realize that having one person who believes in them can change their whole life and outlook,” says Kenadee.

Adrianna couldn’t agree more.