A Place to Call Home for Homeless Youth

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

Twenty-two-year-old David Torres had been homeless since the age of 12, which he said meant never having a safe place to live. That is until he received some much needed help and direction from a non-profit organization in Boyle Heights that has taken on helping homeless youth as its mission.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Un Lugar Que Jóvenes Desamparados Pueden Llamar Suyo en Boyle Heights

Last Friday, Jovenes Inc., celebrated the grand opening of the Progress Place Apartments, a permanent supportive housing development for youth who have graduated from emergency and transitional housing assistance programs.

Torres, the second resident to move into the new apartments, said during last Friday’s ribbon cutting ceremony that he’s been so inspired by the help he has received, he now dreams of someday opening his own homeless shelter.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, pictured with Fr. Richard Estrada, founder of Jovenes, Inc., celebrates the opening of Progress Place. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Rev. Fr. Richard Estrada, pastor of the Our Lady Queen of Angeles/La Placita Church in downtown Los Angeles, founded Jovenes Inc. 20 years ago after seeing great numbers of homeless youth show up at his church with just a note with a phone number in their pocket and nowhere to stay.

Progress Place is Jovenes’ first permanent supportive housing development, though the new apartments are located at the Father Estrada Learning to Live Campus, which already includes an emergency shelter and a transitional housing complex for youth on the same cul-de-sac on Pleasant Street in Boyle Heights.

Progress Place’s two apartment buildings have a combined 7 units and can house up to 14 young adults, ages 18 to 25.

The goal behind Jovenes’ housing program — where tenants pay rent — and the supportive services they provide, is to help the young people achieve long-term independence by supporting their education, employment and financial literacy.

The organization has plans to purchase more houses in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles and convert them into permanent affordable housing for homeless youth, under the “My Home – Mi Casa” program.

Future “scatter sites” are also planned for El Sereno and Lincoln Heights, according to Jovenes Inc. Executive Director Andrea Marchetti. “In the next two years, we will double our housing capacity in East LA and Boyle Heights,” she said.

Marchetti said Progress Place is the culmination of five years of collaborations.

Supervisor Gloria Molina attended the ribbon cutting ceremony and joined members of the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles (CDC) for a tour of the new housing facility.

“The County has a responsibility to protect and support youth who have struggled to secure a stable living environment. Through projects like Progress Place, young adults can transition into self-sufficiency with confidence, and the necessary tools for a successful future,” she said.

Molina noted that today many young adults in their 20s, while not homeless, are still not ready to be self-sufficient. Becoming independent is that much harder for “these kids who have nothing,” she said, referring to the low-income, and in some cases previously homeless youth taking up residency at the new apartments.

During Friday’s ceremony, Estrada turned to Torres, 24-year-old Robert Ledesma and 23-year-old David Gutierrez—all recipients of Jovenes services—and said, “We know you are going to make it in life.”

The $3.6 million Progress Place project received $1 million in funding from the Community Development Commission of the County of Los Angeles (CDC), which helps develop and rehabilitate housing by administering federal, state and local financing programs, according to Supervisor Molina’s office.

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July 19, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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