2022 Grants Challenge

Transforming youth trauma with creative therapy.

Since 2017, Seed House Project has helped 102 young men find independent living, employment, and financial stability after foster care. After five years of successful outcomes, we are deepening our impact by launching a creative therapy program tailored to the unique needs of these young adults. Our program will combine trauma-informed therapy with arts education and exploration to help youth process and transform their traumatic experiences into sources of purpose, propelling them into adulthood with a strong sense of identity and direction.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

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?

Within two years of exiting foster care, 24% of youth are incarcerated, 51% are unemployed, only 10% are in college, and 46% are homeless by age 26. Nearly 90% suffer from bipolar, depression, anxiety, or PTSD, compared to 20% of the general population. In 2016, troubled by how many former foster youth were on Skid Row, entrepreneur Garrett Underwood launched a youth jobs program. Though it employed 100 youth in its first year, the death of a young man brought Garrett face-to-face with the fact that jobs aren’t enough. Cameron had advanced through the program to gain full-time work, housing, and a car, but later relapsed into substance addiction. He was soon homeless again. Garrett later learned on social media that Cameron had passed away. The isolation many youth feel as they exit foster care leaves them vulnerable to substance abuse and other trauma-bonding behaviors. In honor of Cameron, Garrett founded Seed House Project to help youth find not just jobs and housing, but hope.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

At Seed House Project, we define ourselves not as a shelter or housing program, but as an accelerator program for former foster youth. We help our residents establish stability through housing, job training, internship and job placement, financial literacy coaching, and academic tutoring. But more than just stability, we are interested in transformation. Through personal development workshops, entrepreneurship and business coaching, and onsite creative resources – including a music studio and podcast equipment – residents explore creative outlets, build perspective and confidence, and develop a positive vision for the future. Year after year, the creative tools at our house have helped residents find solace and practice self-expression amid chaotic or challenging life circumstances. With their input, we are now launching a unique “Purpose Therapy” program to help former foster youth experience even greater personal transformation. Taking advantage of our onsite creative equipment, our Purpose Therapy program will leverage a variety of creative modalities including art and music, combined with trauma-informed clinical therapy, to help young adults build skills and perspectives to serve them over their entire lives. Residents will participate in therapy, coaching, and workshops, all geared toward help them process traumatic experiences, build resilience, and develop a meaningful life direction that includes both personal fulfillment and advocacy for positive change.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Finding self-fulfillment, achieving one’s full potential, and expressing creative needs are defined under Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as “self-actualization” needs, the top tier of the hierarchy. We believe that by pursuing these higher-level needs, young adults can build the motivation and resilience that, along with adequate physical resources, can prevent long-term cycles of poverty, substance abuse, trauma, and despair. Many social services help individuals meet basic needs – food, shelter, jobs – but do not help them experience lasting change. The severe risks facing youth exiting foster care highlight that traditional “deficit-based” approaches are often quick fixes for deeper-rooted problems. Using an “asset-based” approach, our Purpose Therapy program will ensure that young adults exit foster care not just with housing and jobs, but with productive mindset and lifestyle habits to support them throughout their lives.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

We always aim for 100% of Seed House Project residents to transition to secure and stable independent housing and meaningful work following their time in our program. Since our founding in 2017, 80% of residents have transitioned to stable employment and independent living on their own accord as the result of our program. We connected the remaining 20% to a higher level of care to ensure they could continue to receive more intensive support based on their needs. During the pilot year of our new Purpose Therapy program, we will focus on developing best practices for the program by refining the specific workshops, activities, and therapeutic tools that are most effective for participants. We will solicit resident feedback on a continuous basis to improve the program. We aim for 100% of creative therapy participants to graduate from our living community with a clear vision, purpose, and direction for the next stage of their life.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 20

Indirect Impact: NaN