We Are LA expansion will serve young adults leaving foster care

Published On: July 8, 2024Categories: MFLA News, Program News, We Are LA

Expanding on efforts that have helped stabilized housing for more than 23,000 Angelenos at risk of eviction and homelessness, the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles today announced that it will provide benefit, employment and housing navigation to the roughly 100 young adults leaving foster care in LA County each month because they are turning 21, with plans to expand the program to serve formerly incarcerated and justice-involved youth.

“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,” said Mayor Karen Bass. “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.”

The Mayor’s Fund’s primary homelessness prevention program, We Are LA, connects Angelenos at risk of eviction with resources available to help them stay in their homes or otherwise stabilize their housing. Program caseworkers screen and connect Angelenos to programs they already qualify for, like CalFresh, MediCal, childcare assistance and earned tax credits. Approximately 60% of the individuals and families the program has served report stable housing, with many others still working through the process.

The We Are LA Children and Youth program will extend this same model to youth exiting foster care, pairing each young person aging out of the system with a trained caseworker who has been in the foster care system themselves to connect them to available resources and to help secure housing for them. We Are LA is partnering with the Children’s Law Center and The RightWay Foundation to provide these new services.

“These young people are at risk of becoming chronically homeless, and we need to make sure they don’t,” said Conway Collis, President and CEO of Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. “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.”

“Children’s Law Center of California is optimistic that this partnership with the Mayor’s Fund and Right Way Foundation 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,” said Leslie Starr Heimov, Executive Director of the Children’s Law Center of California. “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, one of the caseworkers at the RightWay Foundation, experienced homelessness herself after exiting the foster care system. She went five years without stable housing before she found assistance at RightWay.

“Leaving foster care is hard,” Jimenez said. “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.”

“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,” said Mercedes Jackson, a client of the National Foster Youth Institute. “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.”

The program will start by serving approximately 100 20-year-olds per month. It also plans to begin serving formerly incarcerated and justice-involved youth in 2025. Funding for this service expansion was provided by the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation, Casey Family Programs, the R&S Kayne Foundation, and the Mayer Foundation.

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