In South Los Angeles, community leaders are taking a different approach to their campaign awareness by bringing together communities of faith for a breakfast summit to discuss transition age youth homelessness in the local region.
Transition age youth are between the ages of 16 and 25.
According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2011 homeless count, there were 3,959 youth, of which 3,593 were between the ages of 18 to 24. Not surprisingly, South LA had the second highest concentration.
The South Los Angeles Homeless Transition Age Youth and Foster Care Collaborative, a newly formed coalition of South LA nonprofits, faith, government, business, and community leaders, have taken the helm of preventing and ending transition age youth homelessness locally. They have vowed to change the pipeline from foster care to homelessness, incarceration, and gangs through community mobilization, advocacy, and policy change.
Collectively, the Collaborative’s efforts are centered on creating better social, economic, and personal mobility for transition age youth who are from or return to their South LA community networks. The goal is to improve transition age youth outcomes by developing a culturally-competent system of care that has capacity and resources to deliver services and to use anecdotal and data-driven information to transform their lives.
The Collaborative is hosting a South Los Angeles Transition Age Youth Matter Interfaith Summit, a first of many community engagement activities and initiatives in South LA to introduce the state of transition age youth homelessness and to mobilize the interfaith community to be partners in intervention and prevention strategies. The Summit activities include a homeless report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, presentations on employment opportunities, strategies on gang prevention, and a call for action.
“We see this summit as a first of many opportunities to bring awareness about homeless transition age youth. We want our faith community to walk away compelled and inspired to do something,” said Gerald Thompson, Chair of the South Los Angeles Homeless TAY and Foster Care Collaborative.
The summit is timely, especially at a period when transition age youth are still experiencing the negative effects of the recession. Doubled-up housing in kinship care homes are forcing many transition age youth to leave them without stable housing and employment, only to end up at shelters or even the streets. The lack of transportation resources for those over the age 21 is causing some to rack up fines and bench warrants for MTA fair evasion tickets they can’t pay resulting in legal personal barriers and difficulty securing employment. CalFresh, food stamps, are not enough to cover food or nutritional needs and are used up within 3 weeks leaving some to go hungry or worry about accessing food for a week. While AB 12 and other programs help foster youth up to age 21, the new age of trepidation is no longer 18 – it is 21 because these youth are returning to communities that have few employment opportunities and very little affordable housing to balance their lack of financial resources.
By galvanizing communities of faith, the Collaborative aims to generate collective impact by asking faith groups to be part of the solution. “Our places of worship can be sanctuaries of safety and dignity and centers of wellness and wholeness for persons who are homeless, especially transition age youth. We are engaging the ecumenical and inter-faith community to realize the impactful and meaningful roles they can play to prevent and end transition age youth homelessness,” shared Pastor Kelvin Sauls of United Methodist Church and newly appointed Commissioner to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
While the foster care system has decreased the number of children in care yearly, a majority are leaving without strong lifelong family connections. Housing and support resources aren’t keeping up with the demand, especially in South LA where it is high and the resources are limited. More services, mentors, donors, and volunteers are needed as leverage resources to ensure South LA’s transition age youth have a safety net to respond to their needs.
INFO: South Los Angeles Transition Age Youth Matter Interfaith Summit, May 16, 2013, 8:30 am -11:30 am, Holman United Methodist Church, 3320 Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90018. Contact Gerald Thompson at Gerald @ptyf.org for more details.