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First Place for Youth helps former foster care youth find housing

May 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Ashley Marquez, 18, was briefly homeless until she moved into her first apartment in Baldwin Hills Thursday. When Marquez turned 18, she was aged out of L.A.'s foster care system.

Marquez says after leaving the system she had nowhere to go but the street. That is until the nonprofit organization First Place for Youth provided her with housing.

"Even with everything that happens going through foster care you can still do it, you can still get yourself together, start over, there's help. This program helped me," she said.

First Place for Youth is a nonprofit agency that was founded to combat homelessness and poverty among transitional foster youth like Marquez who are between the ages of 18 and 24.

"We actually pay their rent for up to two years. our program really is about helping young adults exciting foster care to work on their employment and career paths and also pursue some type of higher education," said Lorena Leyva with First Place for Youth.

Marquez says higher education and getting a job are some of her goals.

First Place for Youth says every year 1,500 foster care kids age out of the system just like Marquez, and many of those kids, they say, end up on the street.

"A huge percentage, 65 percent of former foster youth between this transition age between 18 to 24, become homeless very soon after they leave the system and it's just staggering," said Amy Gonzalez with First Place for Youth.

Officials with the program say sadly with limited federal and local funding they are only able to help a fraction of the youth who need it.

"We have 50 youth in the program now, we're hoping that by 2014 we will be closer to 200 to 300," said Levya.

You can learn more about First Place for Youth by visiting their website.


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