Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Palace Offers Foster Kids New Hope

Foster youth of the city of Long Beach find new hope and a promising future with the grand opening of The Palace Hotel, a renovated apartment building that houses and guides 13 emancipated youths to becoming successful in the future.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22, Mayor Bob Foster, Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell, 4th District, The Long Beach Housing Development Company (LBHDC), LINC Housing, and United Friends of the Children (UFC) celebrated the grand opening of The Palace in Long Beach.

The Palace hotel was once notorious for a center of drugs and prostitution in the 1920s and a place that offered little hope. Today, with the help of United Friends and LINC Housing, The Long Beach Housing Development Company was able to gut out the entire building and in a 6.2 million dollar project aimed at supporting and guiding at risk foster youth in Long Beach.

“The 13 youth chosen to live at the Palace were given the opportunity based on certain criteria- a willingness to learn, a willingness to succeed, and a perseverance for personal achievement,” said Carolina Diaz, Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator of United Friends of the Children.

According the Press Telegram, it is estimated that of the 1,400 to 1,500 youths who leave foster care each year in Los Angeles County, a shocking 36 percent face homelessness and many more struggle with chronic unemployment within two years. Also, in California, 36 percent of foster youth become homeless within 18 months of emancipation, as stated by Everything Long Beach.

These statistics are what brought about the union of LINC Housing, UFC, and the Long Beach Community to respond to a need of the community.

The 13 chosen residents will be staying for about 18 months as they learn to support themselves. These youth are required to find a job and pay rent while they receive “social, educational, mental health, job training and life- skills services” offered by Pathways, a transitional living service run by United Friends of Children.

“This programs gives kids who once had little hope and guidance towards a promising future, a second chance at life. A chance to succeed and be independent,” said Mauve Linder, a local resident of Long Beach who strolls the area daily.

Part of the ground floor of the renovated apartment building houses iCracked, an iphone and ipad repair company founded by AJ Forsythe who started the company as a college student. The Press Telegram notes that the CEO, Forsythe, “hopes to hire at least 4 or 5” residents of The Palace to help several youth gain work experience under the Pathways program.

United Friends of Children is a non- profit organization dedicated to “bettering the lives of foster children and supporting foster youth in their journey to become successful, independent adults.” The non- profit organization joined with LINC Housing, a company dedicated to building affordable and sustainable housing for those in need, to build a program in Long Beach to reach the foster youth of the community.

The renovation began early summer in 2010 to include 13 studio apartments and a multitude of sustainable features. Some of the features include Energy Star appliances, recycled materials, a high efficiency HVAC system, and dual-flush toilets. To reduce building costs, photovoltaic solar panels and ClearEdge5 fuel cell technology were incorporated into the design. According to the Everything in Long Beach website, the building is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.

The Palace Hotel is a wonderful example of “public and private sectors” that joined forces to meet the needs of the community not only in services offered, but also with renovation and an effort towards sustainability.

- Crisitna Szewczyk

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