Burbank program opens its doors to emancipated youth

Supporters gather to celebrate the opening of Linden House, a new transitional housing program for young adults ages 18 to 24 in Burbank.
Supporters gather to celebrate the opening of Linden House, a new transitional housing program for young adults ages 18 to 24 in Burbank.
Katherine Davis/KPCC

A new program set up to assist 18 to 24 year-old emancipated and homeless youths with transitional housing opened its doors Thursday. The opening of Linden House comes on the heels of the passage of AB12, a bill that extends the age limit for foster care youth from 18 to 21.

Members of the organizations that sponsored the project – Burbank Housing Corporation and the Family Services Agency of Burbank –gathered along with Burbank's mayor to dedicate the building.

The tough economy is tougher still if you happen to be a young adult who has recently "aged-out" of the foster care system or become emancipated from your parents. It is this demographic--too old for high school or foster care, but still too young to support themselves--that Linden House intends to help transition to stable housing and a self-sufficient life.

FSA, a nonprofit that provides low-cost counseling services in Burbank, collaborated with affordable housing group BHC on the project having seen a need for it among the populations that they serve.

"This [18 to 24 year-old] demographic has experienced a lot of neglect. There's just not a lot of social services for them," said BHC business manager Marlaina Morales. She added that lately the organizations have been seeing an "onslaught of young kids" seeking help.

Linden House has space for just six residents and the rooms have already begun to fill up. The first round of residents will move in within the next few weeks. The house should reach full occupancy by mid-October according to BHC executive director Judith Arandes.

The rooms are set up like small apartments where the residents will learn to live autonomously doing their own cooking, housekeeping, and laundry. The residents will also pay a small amount in rent, based on how much they can afford, in order to become familiar with renting responsibilities.

Though the idea is to replicate adult apartment living in order to teach the residents independence, FSA executive director Laurie Bleick stresses that this is a program, not simply a bed and roof.

Most residents are expected to stay in the house for about two years, attending counseling regularly and setting up career and education plans along the way. A supervisor will live on-site to offer guidance and counseling to the residents.

The limited occupancy of the house will provide more focused attention to each resident, said Arandes, "We don't do a service to anyone to have some huge project," that neglects the needs of the individuals involved.

Six is a small number when faced with the 3,600 homeless youths between the ages of 18 and 24 that the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimates live in the L.A. area. The age group makes up about four percent of L.A.'s total homeless population, down slightly from previous years. Still, Rachel Sanders of the Alliance for Children's Rights said every bed helps.

"Right now there are only about 1,500 [transitional housing program] beds in the whole state," Sanders said, "that's about how many kids 'age-out' of foster care just in L.A. county every year."

With so many young people looking for housing and support, Linden house has had to be highly selective. Candidates are chosen through a careful application process which asks each prospective resident to form a long-term life plan and participate in an interview.

The Alliance for Children's Rights, which works closely with kids seeking services after foster care, estimates that one third of young adults coming out of the foster care system will become homeless or incarcerated within the first two years of living independently. This is what the organizers of Linden House hope to avoid.

"If you can give the right support to a kid when they're 18, 19, 20, you have such a chance of success," Arandes said.

Linden House opens its doors almost one year after Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB12, the California Fostering Connections to Success Act. That bill that extended the age limit for foster care to 21. The bill will not go into full effect until 2012.