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Home / Neighborhood / Los Angeles / New program aims to help LA foster youth at risk of homelessness

New program aims to help LA foster youth at risk of homelessness

by Staff
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A program to help Los Angeles residents facing eviction with resources will be expanded to assist young adults leaving foster care, Mayor Karen Bass announced Monday.

Bass along with the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, Children’s Law Center of California and The RightWay Foundation have partnered to help connect young adults leaving the foster care system with services that include housing navigation, job readiness, job placement and financial education.

“Homelessness impacts people with experience in the foster care system at a disproportionate rate to their peers, which is why today’s announcement is so important,” Bass said in a statement. “The Mayor’s Fund’s We Are LA program is expanding again to serve young adults aging out of the foster care system. We know that we cannot solve this crisis with housing alone — we also need services tailored to the specific needs of those who want to come inside. These critical services and opportunities for stable housing for Angelenos leaving foster care will further our efforts to prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place.”

Homelessness disproportionately impacts LA residents who have spent time in the child welfare system, according to the mayor’s office. When a foster youth turns 18 or 21, all support ceases and they are left to fend for themselves. At least 30% of former foster youth end up homeless or in jail within two years of exiting the system.

To address homelessness generally, the city “is working to confront the policies that lead to causes of homelessness within the child welfare system, the criminal justice system, the mental health and addiction treatment system, and more,” according to the mayor’s office.

Officials hope the new foster youth program will help continue the recent slight downtrend in homelessness. Last month the results of the 2024 Homeless Point-In-Time Count showed a decrease in homelessness in the city of LA for the first time in six years and noteworthy reductions in street homelessness.

The Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles is a nonprofit that connects business, philanthropy, the nonprofit sector and municipal government to address residents’ most urgent needs, officials said. We Are LA, the fund’s main homelessness prevention program, connects Angelenos at risk of eviction with money available to help them stay housed. We Are LA caseworkers screen and connect residents with programs they already qualify for, such as CalFresh, MediCal, child care assistance and earned tax credits.

Around 60% of the individuals and families the program has served report stable housing, with many others still working through the process, according to the mayor’s office.

The We Are LA Children and Youth program will use this same model for young people leaving foster care by pairing each young person aging out of the system with a caseworker who has experienced the foster care system first-hand, officials said. The caseworker will connect the former foster youth with available resources and help secure housing for them. The Children’s Law Center and The RightWay Foundation will help the program provide these new services. 

“These young people are at risk of becoming chronically homeless, and we need to make sure they don’t,” Conway Collis, president and CEO of the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, said in a statement. “As a state, these are our children. We have to help them in the same way we help our own children and grandchildren. Services and housing for young adults leaving the system can’t wait because too many are leaving foster care right now without the help they need — almost 25 young adults per month, every month.” 

Leslie Starr Heimov, executive director of the Children’s Law Center of California, said in a statement that the organization is optimistic that the new partnership “will prevent youth who are aging out of foster care from falling into homelessness; and that as they enter into adulthood — they will not only have stable housing but will also be equipped with the skills, supportive services and resources they need to thrive, grow and become the person they dream to be at each stage of their adult life. Through ongoing resources and case management, young people will have the safety net and support we all need to be prepared for the inevitable but still unanticipated bumps in the road and curveballs that life may throw our way.”

Annissa Jimenez, a RightWay Foundation caseworker, was homeless after leaving the foster care system, spending five years without stable housing before finding assistance at the foundation.

“Leaving foster care is hard,” she said in a statement. “Being in foster care is hard, too. It doesn’t prepare you to live on your own. What we’re doing here is so important: helping young people find housing, jobs, and the other assistance they need to move into stable, healthy adult lives.”

Mercedes Jackson, a client of the National Foster Youth Institute, said in a statement, “It wasn’t until I was housed that I could finish high school‚ which was one of my first accomplishments — get a job, keep a job, and get a car. I started to feel really good about myself. It’s amazing how being housed can help all of these other areas that don’t seem connected to housing and even helps with your mental health.”

Information on the project’s total cost and funding breakdown was not immediately available.

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