About 350 mostly housing and homeless services providers and partners packed into the Holand United Method Church Thursday (Sept. 25, 2014) to hear new ways to get youth in Los Angeles off of the street.
The South Los Angeles Homeless TAY and Foster Care Collaborative (Collaborative) is taking the lead on creating and implementing a community plan aimed at building a system of care and reducing the number of homeless youth in South Los Angeles.
According the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s (LAHSA) Point-In-Time Count, there are 8,713 homeless youth up to the age 24; and of that population, 4,046 are transition age youth 18-24. South Los Angeles had the second highest concentration of homeless youth totaling 2,016 and represents 23 percent of the County’s homeless youth population.
A year ago after the Collaborative’s first Interfaith Summit at Holman United Methodist Church to bring awareness to the growing epidemic of youth homelessness, the idea of a community plan was conceived to get a better understanding of the problem and to develop sustainable solutions that would improve their quality of life.
“The South Los Angeles community is driving this plan in a strategic way. It is a people’s buy-in approach to lead and direct outcomes they want to see for their community,” said Grace Weltman, President of Communities In Motion and community planning consultant for the Collaborative.
The Collaborative and community partners release the “Homeless No More Community Plan” today, which outlines six bold strategic goals and actions to be implemented by 2019 to improve housing, employment, education, well-being, and personal development outcomes for South Los Angeles’ homeless youth.
From a series of workgroup meetings with more than 150 stakeholders, the goals and actions target six priority areas for the region:
Coordination: Improve the coordination of services, simplify access, and eliminate barriers
Housing: Increase and improve housing options for homeless youth.
Systems: Coordinate and enhance critical support systems and services targeting homeless and foster care youth.
Policy: Improve public policies and systems that address or omit homeless and at-risk youth.
Data and Research: Produce and compile data and research that best describes the opportunities, needs, and gaps of homeless and at-risk youth.
Capacity Building: Improve and expand the leadership, collaborative-will, and service capacity of service providers, faith-based community, community leaders and youth.
“This plan provides hope for a community that has lacked resources,” said Gerald Thompson, co-founder and director of the Collaborative.
“The community is giving me a better chance to succeed in this world, instead of becoming a common statistic. More resources will help local nonprofits like The RightWay Foundation continue to give us hope when it seems no one cares,” said Darlene Elias, former homeless foster youth and graduate of The RightWay Foundation.
Former, current, and at-risk homeless youth have been integral contributors to the plan and the day of unveiling events. The caterer, Latrina Wilcher of Sweet Tri Pastries and social entrepreneur who bakes goods and uses proceeds to feed vulnerable populations in Skid Row, is a graduate of Sanctuary of Hope’s mentoring and life coaching program.
Other nonprofit partners have taken leadership roles to promote character and leadership development, violence prevention, runaway and sex trafficking, such as The Positive Results Corporation and Virtuous Women Ministries.
Ultimately, the Collaborative believes that the community plan will be a mechanism and opportunity for key decision-makers, philanthropy, and community stakeholders to work in partnership to build a comprehensive and culturally-responsive system of care that benefits South Los Angeles’ youth.