Giving Foster Youth a Chance

For far too long, young people in the county foster care system who suffer from substance abuse or mental health issues and who teetered on the edge of falling in trouble with the law, have had few resources to help them stay on the right side. For some, this dearth of assistance has had severe consequences as they age out of the foster system and in short order, wind up as wards of the County Probation Department. But now, the Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Mental Health and the Probation Department will be expected to coordinate with each other and follow up with the kids who need more guidance and help.

Led by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the board has asked for a substantive plan to coordinate services between the departments in order to improve treatment and tracking of youth in the foster care system and in the custody of probation. Within two months, there will be a written plan to implement a prevention pilot program that will allocate significant funding to help provide substance abuse treatment services and instruct psychiatric social workers to provide specific recommendations on the type of mental health services a youth needs and which agencies in the youth’s service area could provide such services.

In addition, the county is now working on suggested revisions to a state legislative bill that would prohibit the use of incriminating information obtained during a clinical review against a youth in any court proceeding.

This pilot program works in conjunction with an innovative program for Los Angeles County funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation which seeks to help foster youth transitioning to independence find the tools to finish school, get a job and work well with others.

According to a comprehensive study funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation transition-age foster youth confront a myriad of challenges in education, employment, health, mental health and earnings potential. The study found that 25 percent of foster youth are incarcerated by age 20; 65 percent leave foster care without a place to live and 27 percent of the homeless population spent time in foster care.

Less than one in ten former foster youth obtain a degree and within the four years after leaving foster care, more than half of youth have no earnings, and those who do average an income of only $7,500 per year.

“We need to help our most vulnerable youth reach their maximum potential,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “This segment of our population cannot be ignored. They need help becoming independent adults and this effort by Los Angeles County moves us one step closer to doing that.”

 

 

A Modern Day Village in the Heart of Koreatown

Menlo Family Apartments

The Menlo Family Apartments’ breezy courtyard garden brimming with spiky succulents, its brightly painted hallways in hues of blue, yellow, orange and green and even the sparkling new bathrooms are a far cry from the blighted site that once made this corner of Koreatown notorious as a stop for prostitution and gang activity.

The apartments, on Menlo near Vermont Avenue and Pico Boulevard, are a veritable, modern-day village. Here young adults, children, middle-aged adults and grandparents will mingle in one location, but it is also a place that caters to society’s most vulnerable people : low-income families, families struggling with mental illness, kids graduating from the foster care system and formerly homeless families.

Newly opened and run by the Koreatown Youth & Community Center, the Menlo Family Apartments received 3,500 applications for only 60 apartments, speaking to the dire need for affordable housing in one of the country’s most expensive areas—Los Angeles.

“We are bringing together three very distinct populations that have never lived together and trying to instill a sense of family in the building,” said Christine Najung Lee, youth services manager KYCC. “It is hard enough for one or two parents to raise a family on their own. We are going to have regular tenant meetings and we are hoping they can look out for one another. This is a neighborhood within a building.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas at the Grand Opening of Menlo Family Apartments

Los Angeles County, along with City of Los Angeles and Union Bank, funded the project, which was built by the Little Tokyo Service Center. Mental health counseling, job training, financial literacy classes and possibly a daycare center will be available to tenants within the building.

“Despite the prosperity that is coming to Wilshire Boulevard and many other parts of Los Angeles, it is increasingly important that we address issues of mental illness, homelessness, and youth in transition to spread the benefits of the economic recovery to all of our constituents and neighbors,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, a strong backer of the project. “This type of permanent housing, with supportive services, is a successful model for combating homelessness, keeping families together and enabling opportunities for our youth.”

Considering the loss of the state’s redevelopment dollars, the housing project is also an example of the need for local governments to continue funding and building affordable housing. Chairman Ridley-Thomas pointed to three recent projects totaling more than $44 million to develop affordable housing in the Second District.

“We will keep the affordable housing pipeline full,” he said. “And we will continue to support organizations like the Little Tokyo Service Center and the Koreatown Youth & Community Center in doing this significant work.”

Homeless Advocate Named Woman of the Year

 

[raw]A hearty congratulations to Marsha Temple, executive director of the homeless advocacy agency, Integrated Recovery Network, who has been selected as the Second Supervisorial District’s Woman of the Year.

Temple was chosen by Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas for her outstanding work helping homeless people reclaim their lives by finding housing, health care and jobs.

Temple, who is an attorney, has been an advocate for the homeless and homeless issues for years. In her work at the Integrated Recovery Network, she has championed the need to help mentally ill people released from the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, finding them housing, mental health services and addiction management so that with counseling, they can address the substance abuse and other issues and that threaten their stability and risk a return to jail.

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She will join seven other women, selected by other members of the board of supervisors, who will be honored for their work bringing about social and economic change at a luncheon sponsored by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women on March 11.

“It is a huge honor to be chosen to represent the Second Supervisorial District as Woman of the Year for my work with the Integrated Recovery Network. So many people are working to find housing for people who are homeless, to provide access to medical and psychiatric care, to reduce recidivism rates, to help people who have been homeless find jobs,” said Temple.

“I dedicate this award to the staff of the Integrated Recovery Network. My colleagues work alongside me every day, creating opportunities for life-altering transformations of people who might not otherwise have the chance to lead dignified and productive lives.”  Temple has also served as past president of the Board of Directors of Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, the Board of Governors of Marina del Rey Hospital, as chair of the Board of Directors of the Venice Family Clinic and she is currently on the Board of Governors of Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital.

As an attorney for 20 years, Temple represented hospital clients in a variety of liability actions including medical and psychiatric malpractice, breach of contract and defended allegations of elder abuse.

The LA County Commission for Women champions many causes including employment, gender equity, promoting access to health care for women of all ages, ending violence against women and supporting legislation that positively impacts the lives of women.

“Marsha Temple exemplifies the selfless and tireless work that it takes to help the most challenged people in our society get back on their feet,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “She and her staff understand the importance of giving all human beings a chance to live a decent life and she richly deserves this honor .”

Supervisors Approve $15 Million More for Affordable Housing

Epworth Apartments on Normandie Avenue.  Photo courtesy of Los Angeles County.

Epworth Apartments on Normandie Avenue. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles County.

The preservation and creation of affordable housing has been a longstanding goal of the county and its 88 cities, but the demise of redevelopment agencies delivered a blow to low-income residents struggling in one of the nation’s most difficult housing markets; the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $1,447 — far more than one-third of take-home pay for 40 percent of Angelenos.

Acting on a joint motion by Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Gloria Molina, the Board of Supervisors unanimously reaffirmed the county’s commitment to providing permanent housing for low-income residents, recently approving a motion to transfer $15 million to the Community Development Corporation for affordable housing in Los Angeles County.

Supervisors Molina and Ridley-Thomas had urged the board to set aside $75 million for five years, $15 million of which would be allocated this year, but voted to postpone allocating the remaining $60 million until the annual budget process begins — just a few weeks.

Both Supervisors Molina and Ridley-Thomas urged the balance of the board to dedicate the total amount available to affordable housing.

“I am advocating for and committed to affordable housing having top priority consideration for the use of these resources,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas. “On any given night in Los Angeles County, over 50,000 homeless individuals live on the streets. The majority have untreated illnesses or disabilities, so affordable housing can and must be the priority. It has implications for our communities and workforce dynamics.”

“I think what’s important is that this is not money that should be allocated in a different direction…I’m hoping we’re not going to layer this with all kind of other competing interests,” said Supervisor Molina.

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Hope Street Family Center courtesy of Abode Communities.

Affordable housing advocates cheered passage of the motion, noting the significant challenges they face since the dissolution of redevelopment agencies.

“The loss of redevelopment housing funds has had a significant impact on the production and preservation of affordable housing,” said affordable housing developer Robin Hughes, the president of Abode Communities committed to affordable housing communities in Los Angeles.

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In October of last year, acting on a joint motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved $11 million in funding for affordable housing projects that is expected to result in approximately 176 new units. Through the Community Development Commission’s work, the county has created over 10,000 affordable units.

“This funding is critically important to low income communities and people with special needs,” said Dora Gallo, chief executive of A Community of Friends, a nonprofit agency that develops affordable housing. “While other cities and counties are still trying to figure out what to do with the loss of redevelopment funds, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Supervisor Molina have taken action.”