Due to the nuances of LA’s homeless housing system, young pregnant and parenting couples can find it near impossible to receive a placement, but local non-profit Safe Place for Youth has a solution.

Dubbed the “Nest”, SPY has created a dedicated housing program for pregnant and parenting youth at risk of homelessness. The first location opened in 2019 and following its success, the organization has just opened a second location.

Both buildings provide youth ages 18 to 24 with 36 months of free housing, personalized case management, education and employment training, and supportive family services.

“The unique part of our program is that we allow couples to live together and we really try to maintain whatever the youth considers their nuclear family to increase their circle of support,” said Iberia Calix, SPY’s senior housing program manager. “I think that there is an opportunity to share what we’ve learned, so there can be more programs that allow more flexibility.”

Currently in Los Angeles, only single parents are eligible for youth pregnant and parenting housing through LASHA’s coordinated entry system. Young couples can apply for housing through the adult system, but rarely get off of the waitlist as priority is given to people with chronic illness or long-term housing instability.

SPY accepts single parents or family units for its inclusive housing program. According to Calix, the demand for this program was made clear by the over 100 young people actively engaging in pregnant and parenting services at SPY’s access center.

“There was a need for specific housing resources that allowed single parents, pregnant parents or even couples who live together to find stability, and then be able to go off on their own and secure longer term housing,” said Calix.

Over 75 percent of the young people SPY serves identify as BIPOC, and over 65 percent find themselves in unstable housing situations because of violence or conflict.

Many Nest program participants were either kicked out of their homes or are not receiving support from their families because of their early pregnancies. There’s also another large portion who were facing housing instability prior to becoming pregnant. Standard youth shelters do not allow pregnant individuals to stay in their building, so these individuals have to find a pregnancy shelter or another housing solution.

Many pregnant and parenting youth end up living in cars, couchsurfing, or bouncing from shelter to shelter. This lack of stability often prevents them from being able to make long-term plans, provide for their children’s or their own health needs, or become economically self-sufficient.

“We do intensive case management which includes a plan for ensuring their children are meeting their development milestones,” said Calix. “We focus on increasing their income for sustainability and also financial literacy, so that they learn to budget their money and plan long-term for their own place.”

So far the approach has been working. No residents have dropped out of the original Nest program and one participant has moved into her own apartment with her children and partner. New participants are currently moving into the second location and connecting with their case managers.

“It’s great to have more youth engage in our program and really benefit from the stability of having a place to be safe and secure, and then also from the skill building, coaching and guidance that we provide,” said Calix. “Seeing their growth and seeing them thrive throughout their time in the program is very exciting.”