Since the 2010 launch of our My First Place™ program in Los Angeles, First Place for Youth has provided housing, education and employment support, and comprehensive wrap-around services to hundreds of young people in foster care as they set themselves on a path for self-sufficiency. As we commemorate our tenth anniversary in Los Angeles in a year of uncertainty and challenge, we’re recommitting ourselves to the work of fighting for just and equitable systems that support foster youth’s success and fulfilling our vision of a world where all young people can rise to reach their full potential.
This month, we’re taking a look back at where we started and what brought us to where we are today.
2010: Moving in and Laying Foundation
A three person staff of Program Manager, Youth Advocate, and Education & Employment Specialist put My First Place into operation in Los Angeles. In our first year, 32 young people—including Sheldon—receive the housing and vital supports they need to forge a path toward success.
At the state level, First Place’s continued advocacy for transition-age foster youth services pays off. The California legislature passes AB 12, establishing and laying the groundwork for the state’s extended foster care system to begin in 2012.
2011-2013: Early Investments and Recognition
With a $3 million investment from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in 2011, First Place takes the lead in a multi-year pilot demonstration of My First Place. Through the Transition-Aged Youth Housing Stabilization Project, we provide training and technical assistance to other area providers as they implement the My First Place model within their services. In three years, the number of young people in Los Angeles receiving My First Place services each year grows from 32 to 114.
In recognition of these accomplishments, First Place receives the National Association of Counties’ 2013 Achievement Award for Children and Youth in Los Angeles County.
2014-2016: Growth and Impact
As First Place works to serve more young people, we continue seeking out partnerships to help our young people thrive. From direct outreach to landlords to hosting National Foster Youth Institute career preparation trainings, new connections improve our ability to provide safe homes, educational support, and career exploration opportunities for young people like Dre.
Supported by a collaboration with Art + Practice, we open a second program office, moving into office space in their Leimert Park campus. This new office location puts us in closer contact with the young people of South LA and allows us to connect them directly with employment and enrichment offered by A+P.
2017-2019: Forward Momentum
With both our Leimert Park and Koreatown offices in full swing, First Place continues our efforts to increase the number of youth served annually and provide young people with the skills, support, and resources to ensure they remain stable and successful after leaving our program.
A four-year $1 million grant from United allows us to invest our employment programs. The partnership goes beyond dollars as United and First Place cohost a series of career exploration events, including a behind the scenes tour of Los Angeles International Airport.
Through housing partnerships with A Community of Friends and an anonymous donor, First Place establishes single-site housing service locations in Compton and Santa Monica. The Compton site provides an intensive on-ramp for young people just entering program, while the Santa Monica location focuses on parenting youth who need additional time to prepare to support their families.
For the first time, we serve more than 200 young people in a single year.
2020: Reflection and Resilience
A milestone year brings with it unforeseen challenges.
As the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down workplaces and schools and puts young people in foster care at increased risk falling through the cracks, we join with other organizations to successfully advocate for a statewide suspension of “aging out” during the pandemic.
Pivoting to virtual meetings and workshops enables us to stay in close contact with all our youth. And with the generous support of our partners, funders, and donors we’re able to meet the immediate needs of young people in crisis and continue providing the stability and safety that allows them to keep their focus where it should be: on the future.