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RightWay Foundation’s Operating Housing First Supports Transition-Age Foster YouthPosted
There is no quick fix to homelessness, however, there are ways to stabilize the rapid increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County. The RightWay Foundation’s Operation Housing First cuts off a direct pipeline to homelessness by housing transition-age foster youth (TAY). Fifty percent of TAY will experience homelessness within the first two years of emancipation from the foster care system. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reports one-third of young people (ages 18-24) experiencing homelessness exited the foster care system. TAY emancipate from the foster care system without a place to call home.
There are many culprits which contribute to these staggering statistics, but the worst offenders are the insurmountable cost of living in Los Angeles and lack of support for TAY as they enter adulthood.
The Cost of Living
There is a sizable gap between renters’ wages and the cost of rental housing across the United States. The gap is more pronounced in urban areas like Los Angeles County, where the average one bedroom apartment rents for $2,395, a 23 percent increase from 2021. Last year, California increased its minimum wage to $16.04. Based on these numbers, a minimum wage worker will have to work just under 150 hours a month to afford monthly rent.
Most employed TAY work minimum wage jobs. TAY are, already, at a greater risk of socioeconomic immobility due to the effects of trauma. Lingering trauma from foster care coupled with the pronounced gap between wages and rental cost leave many TAY unhoused. It is nearly impossible to focus on work and daily responsibilities when basic needs, like shelter and housing, are not met.
However, there is hope for more affordable housing. Assemblymember Pilar Schiavo of the 40th Assembly District authored “The End to the Foster Care-to-Homelessness Pipeline Act,” which will “expand the number of affordable units available to former foster youth struggling with housing security.”
The most effective way to stabilize the homelessness population is to stop homelessness before it starts. Preventative measures, like “The End to the Foster Care-to-Homelessness Pipeline Act,” must be taken to stop TAY from becoming housing insecure and/or completely unhoused. More affordable housing options give TAY a more equitable chance to secure housing; it sets them on a more stable path in adulthood, but housing alone is not enough.
The RightWay Foundation: the Support TAY need
Operation Housing First is The RightWay Foundation’s subsidized housing program. TAY receive a furnished room in one of RightWay’s modern shared living facilities with Butterfly’s Haven or My Tribe Housing. Mature participants may receive their very own apartment. However, Operation Housing First is more than a housing program. RightWay prepares participants for adulthood, which is multifaceted. We understand “adulting” is hard, even without the traumas of foster care, so special attention is paid to helping TAY process and work through mental and emotional barriers.
RightWay provides trauma-informed job readiness training, financial literacy, case management, and mental health services, all of which our housing program participants are either required or strongly encouraged to take advantage of. RightWay advocates for the pursuit of higher education, trades, and hobbies; and, above all, bolsters mutually beneficial relationships and meaningful human connection to create a well rounded life.
Many of these pursuits seem, almost, inconceivable when unhoused. Housing is the precursor to growth and opportunity. It creates space to focus on daily responsibilities, explore careers and/or education, and cultivate lasting relationships. RightWay envisions a Los Angeles where TAY can experience the once inconceivable for themselves. We believe supportive housing is key.
Since receiving a grant from LA2050, RightWay has housed an additional 31 Los Angeles TAY, bringing our total to more than 45 TAY housed since the launch of the program in 2020. RightWay is on track to exceed our initial goal to house 50 additional TAY by the end of the LA2050 grant period. We are constantly on the hunt for additional housing and funding opportunities to meet the needs of the TAY population.
We know that RightWay alone cannot flatline homelessness, so we have created a replicable model. If more programs and initiatives provide affordable housing and supportive services to TAY, one of the most pervasive pipelines to homelessness in Los Angeles can be cut off. TAY would then be afforded a more equitable chance to not just survive but thrive in adulthood.