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Foster youth to get new housing facility

The $1.92-million project can serve up to nine at a time, ages 16 to 19.

September 01, 2010|By Gretchen Meier, gretchen.meier@latimes.com

Emancipated foster youth will soon have a second home to move to under a $1.92-million project recently approved by the City Council, although it will only serve up to nine clients at a time.

The transitional housing facility, to be operated through a joint venture with the Burbank Housing Corporation and the Burbank Family Service Agency, would offer three two-bedroom apartments to foster youth who suddenly find themselves on their own with few options.

A fourth unit would be occupied by an on-site manager.

The project was passed last month by the City Council, despite concerns that the price tag for land acquisition and renovation was too hefty considering the relatively few people it would serve. Officials for the family service agency and housing corporation acknowledged the steep expense, but said the property manager could be tapped to oversee other housing projects.

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The project at 225 W. Linden Ave. was also an important step in ensuring the foster youth were as prepared for the real world as possible, they said.

Roughly $526,000 will come from federal funds, while about $1.38 million will come from the city Redevelopment Agency.

The Burbank Housing Corporation will kick another $10,000 and administer the project. It will also contract with the Burbank Family Service Agency to provide supportive services for the residents, while owning and managing the actual property.

The transitional housing facility will be open to young adults between the ages of 16 and 19 who are recently emancipated foster youth, or at risk of becoming homeless. According to a report to a Burbank Housing Corporation oversight committee, a disproportionate number of homeless adults were once in the foster care system.

Officials also said a large percentage of former foster youth fail to achieve self-sufficiency, adding that in Los Angeles County, 50% of them will be homeless within six months.

Representatives for the Burbank Family Service Agency could not be reached for comment.

Burbank Housing Corporation officials examined various transitional housing options and decided to model the Linden property after the single-site models successfully employed by United Friends of the Children, which operates facilities in Whittier and Inglewood.

"We focus on helping these young adults move from a dependent to an independent lifestyle," Polly Williams, president of United Friends of the Children, said. "We commit to the youth for the long haul so they have the support they need when they go forward with their lives."

The agency assigns advocacy counselors to each resident to establish unique goals. As of June, 89% of the program's alumni are in stable housing and 75% of the former participants are employed.

Burbank Housing Corporation has closed escrow on the Linden Avenue property and the current residents of the remaining three units will be relocated to other affordable housing facilities at the cost of the corporation.

"Now that the project has been approved, the residents have a 90-day notice to vacate," said Maribel Leyland, senior redevelopment project manager for the city, adding that they would "work very specifically with each household."

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