Olive Tree Commons Affordable Youth Housing
Youth who have worked so hard to move beyond homelessness and trauma deserve more than being thwarted by a housing market that is inaccessible. To develop skills, strengths, ideas, and opinions, only to have no place to exercise them is unjust. The Olive Tree Commons provides affordable housing for formerly homeless youth – a safe place from which to discover the excitement of their next transition. Featuring soft-touch, optional, accessible resident services, residents of the 16 units are free to set off on their journey as young adults.
What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?
Housing and Homelessness
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?
Pilot or new project, program, or initiative
What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?
The majority of returns to homelessness for youth who have spent years working in shelter and housing programs to develop connection, coping skills, strengths, and the logistical necessities of employment/education in order to provide them with some permanency – are directly attributable to the lack of affordable housing in Los Angeles. Despite their best efforts and the support of well-known programs, the fact remains: An 18-24 year old who is starting their life from scratch with entry level employment and an only-recently illuminated set of inherent skill cannot afford the $1,500 - $2,000/month average rent for an apartment in this great city. After leaving programming, our youth are swimming in the deep end, and whether it’s a pandemic, a tragedy, sickness, or any other of life’s myriad curveballs, it doesn’t take much for our youth to find themselves back in a life of trauma. To that end, formerly homeless youth need affordable places to live. Olive Tree Commons is that place.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
The Olive Tree Commons offers 16 affordable units to youth who are launching into life and most eagerly leaving the moniker of ‘homeless’ behind them. For good. The first of its kind model for morally sound follow-up care will provide youth who were formerly experiencing homelessness with ethical rental rates based on 30% of their income. This provides them with the physical and theoretical space to establish their healthy, excited, limitless identity as members of a community. It affords them the ability to make career changes and to experiment with adult life in the ways that those of us with intact family and social supports did when we were just beginning our journeys as adults. The Olive Tree Commons is an apartment building near Wilshire/Crenshaw, purchased by CHC in 2019. In the time since, we have used only private fundraising to renovate it, always with the intention of providing affordable housing accompanied by light-touch resident services (i.e., case management if residents need it) in a way that is self-sustaining. Indeed, since the building is owned, and the renovations complete, we only need this first year of salaries for case management covered before the abbreviated rent paid by residents will pay for the maintenance of the building as well as the aforementioned resident services. We are so excited to establish this replicable model of responsible follow-up care to youth who have worked so very hard to add to the exquisite diversity of Los Angeles.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
L.A. County will be better as a result of The Olive Tree Commons. The youth CHC serves are diverse in culture, identity, strengths, and ideas; as a result of this project, they will have a safe homebase from which to flex those ideas, grow them, and eventually transition to the next phases of their lives. Their residency is not time-bound, but – as with most young adults – transitions are frequent, and an affordable place for them to establish the starting point to their intellectual, professional, and social journeys is a great (and replicable!) coup for L.A. That’s the long-term goal. For the short-term, we would consider it a success for all 16 units to be leased up. Further, we will consider it a success when we gauge the intensity of the things that the project’s soft-touch case manager is providing, so we can better hone that role. Finally, we will consider it a success if residents are frank re: how the project could be better and more reflective of their unique needs.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
It is imperative that The Olive Tree Commons not be presented as a homeless services program; the youth who will live there have worked hard to leave that stage of their life behind, and this is simply an affordable place for them to live with resident services available if they need them. We will measure the success of the program by: 1) Ensuring that the building remains fully leased; 2) All residents are paying their reduced rent on-time; 3) None of the residents return to homelessness or unstable living situations; 4) The youth who leave the Commons are doing organically so for bigger and better things. Lastly, we will consider this program a success if it leads to other agencies/entities replicating the model; in that way, the indirect long-term benefit is limitless. There are 6,000 youth experiencing homelessness in L.A., and it’s up to us to ensure they have a safe space to exercise their gifts when they leave shelter-based programming.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 32
Indirect Impact: 256