Thursday, March 8, 2012

Teens Go From Foster Care to The Palace

City officials and residents of The Palace at the
grand re-opening on February 22nd.
By: Lenai Sanchez

The one-time Palace Hotel has had a makeover and now serves as a residence for 13 former foster youths.

The 13 residents that have become of age and are no longer part of foster care can call  "The Palace" home, since it has been newly renovated into an apartment complex.

On the day of the  re-opening, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster commented saying that The Palace could be a stable environment and home for the hundreds of young adults, that had goals of "gaining employment, finding their own apartment, and completing their education".

According to the Everything Long Beach website," there are more than 1,000 children in foster care" and without assistance, many of these young individuals will become homeless and/or chronically unemployed within two to four years after leaving foster care.

And according to a press release the Los Angeles County has more than 22,000 children in foster care and every year 1,400 emancipate.

These alarming numbers were the inspiration for the renovation of The Palace and are what initiated the partnership of LINC Housing, United Friends of the Children, and Long Beach.

Officials of Long Beach, LINC, the Long Beach Housing Development Company and UFC, all arrived February 22nd to commence the grand re-opening of the apartment complex. Without these individuals none of this great work would have been made possible.

The one time hotel, was once very popular in the 1920's.
The LINC Housing Corporation is a nonprofit organization that builds, owns and operates affordable housing for seniors and families throughout California. The corporation also offers its residents life-enhancing services and is committed to creating and preserving housing that is environmentally sustainable, and is a catalyst for communities improvement.  

The United Friends of the Children is also a nonprofit organization dedicated to bettering the lives of former foster children and to supporting former youths as they continue their journey to on becoming successful and independent adults.

And the Long Beach Housing Development Company assists the creation and development of affordable housing. Its goal is to provide safe and livable neighborhoods in Long Beach by promoting, developing and preserving decent, safe and affordable housing for the very low to moderate-income residents.
When I spoke to Jacqueline Medina, the Communications director for the Long Beach Housing Development, she seemed very proud of the work that has been done to help these former foster youths.

"It has proven to be a wonderful project," says Medina.
Follow Council member Patrick O'Donnell conquered. When I contacted O'Donnell, he referred to the project as " a win-win for the community as a whole and for the foster youth that live there".

"The Building itself has improved, with its historic facade intact, and this is the first facility of its kind in Long Beach. The residents will contribute to the community as well".
The council member spearheaded the effort after seeing a PBS special 15 years ago.

"I was inspired... Many of us cannot comprehend the stress and difficultly that youth in foster care go through. It saddened me that at the end of the process, they age out of the system, without a safety net. I vowed that if I was ever able to do something about this I would," said O'Donnell.
The newly renovated Palace apartment complex.

The Palace not only holds 13 studio apartments, it also includes a manager's unit, common areas, and offices for programs services. In the ground floor retail space there will be an iCracked, and iPhone and iPad repair shop that will serve as employment for residents of The Palace.
The Palace has a selection of features such as Energy Star appliances, recycled materials, a high efficiency HVAC system, dual-flush toilets, Photovoltaic solar panels and ClearEdge5 fuel cell technologies to help reduce utility costs. The renovated complex is currently registered with the U.S. Green Building Council.
The Palace residents will also be required to work, pay rent and attend weekly life-skill classes in addition to attending regular meetings with their advocacy counselors.
The proper safe and stable living environment is essential to all individuals and it is amazing that the city of Long Beach was able to provide that opportunity to those who really need it. Now foster care teens that are close to becoming of age and are about to be emancipated have the chance to not only get a reliable job but also have a place to call home.
Hopefully in time more complexes and more buildings can be created into homes for former foster youths and these numbers mentioned before can decrease. After all, our countries' future relies on our youth of today and our future will not be too bright if our youth is homeless and unemployed.

For more foster teens coming of age can contact the United Friends of Children. According to O'Donnell's Chief of Staff, Bridget Sramek, the UFC is the primary source heading the issue.
To get more information go online to the LINC Housing or United Friends of the Children or the Long Beach Housing Development Company websites.


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