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Pregnancy rates for teens and young adults are at historic lows in the United States – but not for all youth. Young women in the foster care system are more likely to experience unintended teen pregnancy and childbirth. According to a recent study, over a third of the young women who are in California’s foster care system at age 17 will give birth at least once by the time they turn 21. The high rate of unintended pregnancy among young women in the foster care system is the result of varying social and economic variables including barriers to reproductive and sexual health, domestic violence, the absence of reliable family support, and/or generational poverty. Young parenthood often correlates with decreased educational attainment, underemployment, and chronic stress. These challenges are further exacerbated by the lack of available and affordable housing in Los Angeles. This leads to family homelessness.

The Affordable Housing Crisis & Family Homelessness

LA is the least affordable housing market in the U.S and over ⅓ of Angelenos are severely rent-burdened, spending 50% of their household income on rent. A LA renter earning minimum wage ($13.25/hr) would need to work 79 hours per week to afford rent on a 1-bedroom apartment. These are the economic realities that lead to homelessness. In fact, 53% of people experiencing homelessness cited economic hardship as the leading factor for their homelessness. The combination of economic and social factors is the driving force behind homelessness for young families in LA County and part of an endless cycle of poverty, physical and mental health issues, generational trauma, and other challenges that undermine a family’s ability to stabilize. According to the 2019 point-in-time homeless count, the number of families experiencing homelessness has risen significantly. A percentage of this population experiences homelessness as a result of fleeing domestic violence. Without housing and supportive services, young women and families are forced to remain in abusive relationships, live in their cars or directly on our sidewalks,  and are at extreme risk of becoming chronically homeless.

Young parents who experience homelessness have very limited access to resources for themselves and their children. This is a problem because we know that good health, stable families, and positive early learning environments are necessary to foster children’s physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development. For young families who experience homelessness however, pressing financial challenges require the parent to make difficult decisions in order to meet their basic survival needs, often taking whatever job they can get first. Accordingly, the ability to set and work towards long-term goals, such as enrolling in school or taking internships in fields of interest, is greatly hindered, forever locking young families in a cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. Access to housing and wrap-around care is therefore critical.

Safe Place for Youth’s Solution: Housing & Supportive Services

Through our robust continuum of care, Safe Place for Youth (SPY) works to advance equitable access to the resources necessary for young families to lead independent, fulfilling, and healthy lives. Our Pregnant & Parenting Program, located at our Drop-In Center in Venice, supports young parents in moving beyond the influences of poverty by providing 1:1 Case Management, prenatal referrals, educational classes facilitated by experts, parenting groups, and access to essential supplies such as diapers, clothing, and formula. In 2018, 113 young people received prenatal and parenting support through SPY’s Pregnant & Parenting Program.  Our Pregnant and Parenting Case Manager works with each young person to address the short and long term goals that will assist their family in exiting homelessness.

SPY’s newest housing program (opening September 2019), will provide 8-10 pregnant and parenting youth families between the ages of 18-24 with the resources and services necessary to live a stable and healthy life. As part of the program, young parents will receive no-cost housing for periods of up to 36 months, onsite case management, education and employment training,  supportive family services, and access to a live-in resident coordinator.

With limited affordable housing and resources available for pregnant and parenting youth experiencing homelessness, there is great need for a holistic program that enables individuals to maintain a stable living situation and be a successful parent all at the same time. SPY is thrilled to have garnered the resources necessary to pilot this program and with continued support from our donors and allies, we know that we can develop more robust programming for our young families and continue to advance our mission to ‘inspire, nurture, and empower the resilient human spirit of homeless youth by providing immediate and lasting solutions, one young person at a time.”

If you are interested in learning more about SPY’s Housing Program for Pregnant & Parenting Homeless Youth, please contact Becky Avila at beckya@safeplaceforyouth.org.

If you’d like to connect with or donate to Safe Place for Youth please email our team at info@safeplaceforyouth.org and/or visit our website www.safeplaceforyouth.org  to subscribe to our mailing list.

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