Homeless Youth Step into Affordable Housing
More than 5,000 youth, when they turn 18, emancipate or “age out” of California’s foster care system, and nearly 1,000 youth exit care each year in Los Angeles. They lose access to all state-funded foster care services and, for the most part, also lose connections to adult support received while in the foster care system. Research has indicated that without housing, education or emotional support, 65 percent of foster youth will face homelessness, twenty percent will be arrested or incarcerated, 46 percent will complete high school and only one percent will graduate from college. For these reasons, Hillsides founded Hillsides Youth Moving On (YMO) in 2004.
By providing comprehensive services such as transitional housing, education, employment, mental health and mentoring support, we help youth transition successfully into adulthood. YMO helps youth avoid negative circumstances and achieve long-term self-sufficiency. Former foster care and probation youth take their first steps to independence when they arrive at YMO. Today, YMO has increased its capacity to accommodate ten more youth in permanent housing.
Over the summer, we began a collaborative effort with First Place for Youth to secure funding from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) to provide affordable housing and support services for a minimum of twenty youth over the next two years. Permanent Housing, unlike transitional housing, has no pre-determined amount of time for youth to receive housing. Youth can stay in their apartments and assume the lease as long as they pay their rent on time. To ensure their success in this endeavor, YMO will continue to provide comprehensive case management, mental health, and career planning to all youth to guarantee a seamless transition to full self-sufficiency.
YMO also partnered with New Economics for Women (NEW), an organization that empowers disinvested communities, who willingly offered eight one and two bedroom units for our youth located at La Villa Mariposa apartments in Los Angeles. At our YMO complex, we have assigned two studio units for youth participating in this new collaborative.
This week we hosted a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony at La Villa Mariposa apartments. The Reverend Cecil L. Murray, board member of LAHSA, shared words of inspiration and encouragement to our youth. Youth present were overwhelmed with the thought of having their first place. They expressed how far they have come.
For these youth, reaching this milestone in their journey is incredibly significant. Having experienced systemic trauma, abuse, run-ins with the law, or bouts of homeless, they have prevailed from these situations. We have created conditions and placed a great deal of attention to offering a comprehensive program whose pathway leads to their successful transition into self-sufficiency and independence.
Our collaborative relationship with LAHSA, First Place for Youth and NEW is so important in trying to alter the daunting statistics for these youth. With the help of others, whose goal is also to support youth in their transition from foster care to successful adulthood, we can make significant impacts in the lives of these youth. I am privileged to be part of their journey into adulthood and thankful that others have joined along their path.