Paid internships and housing for former foster youth
Since 2017, we've provided paid internships to 239 former foster youth. Every year, interns work on projects central to our mission, allowing us to deliver programs by and for foster youth. We're now leveraging our proven internship model to address one of their biggest obstacles: housing. With a strong network of housing partners and a specialized curriculum, we'll help youth secure stable housing and gain independent living skills as they exit foster care, while sharing what they learn through our mobile app to benefit thousands more youth.
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?
Applying a proven model or solution to a new issue or sector (e.g., using a job recruiting software or strategy to match clients to supportive housing sites, applying demonstrated strategies from advocating for college affordability to advocating for housing affordability and homelessness, etc.)
What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?
In this project, we'll address two of the most urgent challenges for former foster youth: jobs and housing. Upon aging out, 65% are in urgent need of housing (John Burton Advocates for Youth), and by 26, about 36% are homeless (US Dept Health & Human Services). Within a couple of years, only 57% of youth are employed (Annie E. Casey Foundation). On average, they'll earn less than poverty level wages and progress more slowly in the labor market than other youth (Health & Human Services). Young adults grow up in the foster care system not being able to make decisions or learn how to navigate the world. Then they age out and struggle to survive on their own. Our internship allows them to focus on securing stable housing for themselves and other foster youth while getting hands-on job experience. Our housing initiative will help them build a foundation to thrive in independent living while gaining skills, experience, a network of their peers and mentors along with a paycheck.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
Our goal is to put foster youth first. We will give them the skills and access to find housing and successfully navigate employment while sharing their knowledge to benefit foster youth throughout LA. Here's how: With your support, we will hire up to 50 young adults a year to complete our intensive, 160-hour paid internship, with a curriculum focused on securing safe, stable, affordable housing. Interns will: Research and map the landscape of post-foster care housing options (public, transitional, specialized program, standard and luxury apartments). Develop scripts and best practices for communicating with landlords, property managers, partners and roommates. Gain financial management skills for independent living. Make arrangements to furnish a space, understand appliances like water heaters and fuse boxes, arrange utility set-up and other logistics. Learn to build healthy relationships and resolve conflict with roommates, neighbors, and property managers. With these skills, interns will help each other as well as an additional 80 young adults searching for housing. Young adults will receive wrap-around services, mentorship, and life skills education from our team for up to two years to ensure a smooth transition. Interns will develop and share what they have learned to benefit former foster and system impacted youth by posting and continuously updating information in the Stepping Forward App - via geo-maps, video content, checklists, how-to guides and more.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
Our internship will have an immediate impact for 100 Los Angeles young adults by reducing their imminent risk of homelessness and setting them up with the skills and supportive community to thrive. We will also have a significant macro-level impact: What our interns learn and create in year one with this grant will build systems of knowledge that for use year after year to share with other youth searching for safe, affordable housing. In 2021, we launched the Stepping Forward mobile app that we developed in partnership with former foster interns and program alumnae. Designed to help youth transition from foster care, our app provides 24/7 access to resources, mentorship, and educational content (all of it created by former foster interns). With this grant, interns will focus on information and details to benefit any young adult seeking housing-related support. As the app grows, this information will be shared with more and more young adults aging out of the foster care system.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
Year after year, we've seen firsthand that youth aging out face significant challenges in securing and transitioning to independent living. In response, over the past few years, with leadership from our Board Chair (a successful commercial realtor), SFLA has built strong relationships with local real estate developers, while continuing to collaborate with nonprofit transitional housing partners. These partnerships allow access to an array of housing inventory that we will leverage to ensure that 100% of our interns move into stable housing. From this first group of housing interns, we'll develop best practices to scale the effectiveness of our app-based programming to benefit thousands more young adults. We also guide each young adult we serve through a personalized process to track long-term trends in housing and food stability, high school graduation, post-secondary education, employment, financial literacy, life skills mastery, social capital, and mental health.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 100
Indirect Impact: 1,000