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What started in 1984 as a day program in a warehouse shell providing a safe and welcoming environment, has become a nationally recognized leading mental health provider, with an annual budget this year, exceeding $11 million dollars, with $2 million of this specifically for transitional age youth (TAY). Life in recovery is possible through the many TAY services provided under the umbrella of Daniel’s Places: permanent supportive housing; supported vocational training and employment; mental health therapy; and member-driven supportive services:
Daniel’s Place (a drop-in center for TAY) opened its doors in 1998. Named after Daniel Greenberg, Daniel’s Place is a supportive TAY community fostering hope, wellness, and recovery. Since 1998, Step Up has expanded its TAY services throughout the greater Los Angeles area to include Hollywood, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. Recent accomplishments include the expansion of the Daniel’s Place youth drop-in center located at Daniel’s Place. The hours for youth experiencing homelessness to drop-in are 5-7pm Monday through Friday, and 9:30am – 6pm on Saturdays. Here, youth experiencing homelessness can grab a meal, share community, and be as active or inactive as they desire. Since launching, Daniel’s Place has seen a steady stream of youth experiencing homelessness, many of whom have previously never attended. To date, Daniel’s Place has been able further engage and enroll 8 of these individuals into services.
Myriad TAY programs now fall under the name of Daniel’s Places illustrating the expansion and breadth of services, not only at Daniel’s Place but throughout all Step Up programs addressing the needs of at-risk, vulnerable young adults. Although there are many programs for children under the age of 18 years who are experiencing mental health issues, Daniel’s Places is one of the few programs in the county offering services specifically focusing on young adults 18 – 28 years of age. Daniel’s Places TAY programs operate throughout Los Angeles. TAY services include: street outreach and engagement; a drop- in center; supportive housing; employment opportunities; mental health care; service coordination; healthcare; education; and linkages to other services. The common denominator for the young adults served through Daniel’s Places is a mental health concern or being at high risk of a mental health issue arising from a prior trauma.
In 2015, Step Up opened new permanent supportive housing units in Santa Monica and, like all Step Up communities, the Kauffmann Apartments at Step Up on Colorado has units set aside specifically for TAY. This property ended homelessness for 3 TAY residents who are now also receiving service coordination and life skills services. Because of Step Up’s stellar reputation and outcome-based services that end rather than manage chronic homelessness, Step Up has been asked to further expand its Housing First model into Orange and San Bernardino Counties and will serve TAY experiencing chronic homelessness and mental health issues.
According to the 2015 LAHSA Homeless Youth Count, Los Angeles County has over 4000 unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. These young adults have unaddressed trauma and untreated mental health disorders. Years of abuse and neglect compound their mental health distress, often manifested in symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, and other behavioral health issues. These challenges severely compromise the health and well-being of youth experiencing homelessness and jeopardize their efforts to reconnect with society and succeed at education and employment. Without appropriate and compassionate intervention, many youth experiencing homelessness are at high risk of entering into an irreversible cycle of chronic homelessness, total dependence on welfare, long-term mental health issues, and permanent aversion to society. It doesn’t have to be this way. It is for this reason that Step Up has made the TAY services of Daniel’s Places an organizational priority.
When a young adult develops a mental health issue, it often occurs in the formative years between the ages of 18-28. A previously vital, adept, young adult’s behavior changes, as well as their ability to navigate their circumstances. In fact everything changes, including their relationship to their family. We know that early intervention helps reduce the biological, psychological, and social deterioration that can occur in the period following the onset of mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or depressive episodes. Reluctance to seek help is often the result of the stigma associated with a mental health issue or lack of knowledge about these types of biological brain disorders and the treatment available. The difficulty of navigating the mental health system can often delay access to appropriate treatment services as well. Step Up has been serving Transitional Aged Youth (18-28yrs) since 1998 and has served over 1000 TAY, many of whom have aged out of foster care and or been in the delinquency system.
To read the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), “Framework to End Youth Homelessness”, click here.
A drop-in center for TAY
7 units of permanent supportive housing for TAY, which was the first TAY permanent supportive housing in Los Angeles when it opened in 2009.
The 2013 Point In Time (PIT) Count conducted in Los Angeles County found 5,737 transitional age youth (TAY) ages 18 to 24 yrs., and an additional 817 unaccompanied youth under age 18. Step Up believes this estimate is an undercount since youth without safe and stable homes are invisible in many communities.
Many of these individuals are escaping abusive homes, emancipating from the foster care and juvenile justice system, or were raised on the street with their parents, trapped in the cycle of homelessness. A study conducted by the National Alliance to End Homelessness revealed that 1 in 11 youth emancipated from the foster care system will experience homelessness, as compared to 1 in 194 for the general population.
Most homeless youth have insufficient life skills, resources, community, and emotional support to deal with the stresses of young adulthood. Years of abuse and neglect compound their mental health distress, often manifested in symptoms of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, suicidal ideation, substance abuse, and other behavioral health issues. These challenges severely compromise the health and well-being of homeless youth and jeopardize their efforts to reconnect with society and succeed at education and employment. Without appropriate and compassionate intervention, many homeless youth are at high risk of entering into an irreversible cycle of chronic homelessness, total dependence on welfare, and permanent aversion to society.
Although most of these individuals are eligible for supportive services, they are all too often denied access to these services due to behavioral issues resulting from unaddressed trauma and untreated mental health disorders. The human and fiscal cost of this dramatic ineffectiveness is born on the back of the individuals, their families, and the community. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Step Up has long been recognized as a leading mental health provider serving Service Area 5 and over the past two years, Service Area 4. Step Up has Department of Mental Health (DMH) programs covering general mental health services, FSP, FCCS, Client Run Center, and Adult and TAY recovery center services. In addition, Step Up is a permanent supportive housing developer that has specialized in a housing first approach. In addition, Step Up has successfully launched two earlier Project 50 replication programs; one in Santa Monica, the other a current program in Hollywood. Step Up is keenly aware of the primary role that stable housing plays as a protective factor in TAY interventions. Step Up has dedicated 14 TAY units in its permanent supportive housing communities in Hollywood.
The demand for services and support however, far outstrip the resources, even in a service rich community such as Hollywood. Further, the TAY population has often been ignored in many housing first efforts and it could even be argued, the adult housing first programs do not capture TAY needs. TAY Project 40 creates and maintain the core protective factors needed for effective interventions to the TAY group and breaks new ground in this area regarding research outcomes for future projects. This program is in alignment with HUD’s Opening Doors, and specifically targets the 40 most high risk homeless youth in Hollywood with a serious emotional disturbance (SED) or severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI). Within the clusters of homeless youth within the general Hollywood area, TAY Project 40 will target the individuals, aged 18-26, experiencing the highest risk factors and the lowest protective factors and who are experiencing SED or SPMI. These individuals are chronically disconnected and at risk of a lifelong trajectory of chronic homelessness. This homeless young adult group include many subpopulations including Foster Care Youth; LGBTQ Youth; Juvenile Justice Youth; and Pregnant/Parenting Youth. All four subpopulations have a history of trauma; mental health issues, substance abuse, engage in high-risk survival sex; and are most likely to experience chronic homelessness. TAY Project 40 will measurably advance housing stability for 40 TAY experiencing homelessness; measurably improve health; access to education; and increase meaningful and sustainable employment by:
A critical outcome is to provide permanent stable housing to participants – housing that is not time limited in duration. The evidenced-based practices for adults have been clearly established and we know that permanent supportive housing is THE solution for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness and mental health issues. For vulnerable youth the evidenced-based practices are not only well-established, they are still in the process of being identified and developed. For TAY Project 40, focuses on permanent and/or stable housing as the key outcome.
TAY PROJECT 40 also has supported employment as an essential part of increasing the protective factors of enrolled youth, some prior to housing and most certainly after housing. Supported employment- in which the youth who have employment goals are enrolled in structured job training program utilizing job coaches and one to one training and support- is an important service to offer youth involved in the program as a way to increase the protective factors and reduce their risk factors. Supportive employment provides a real life job and job setting by providing employment through Step Up’s vocational services. Supportive employment provides a low barrier opportunity for youth that perhaps have never held a job before and provides a path to self-sufficiency. This supportive service is more relevant to vulnerable youth than vulnerable adults. TAY Project 40’s Job/Vocational component is as an asset not to qualify youth as “disabled” but rather to keep them out of “the system; and link them with jobs and on a path of greater stability.
On the assumption that most of the youth involved will have experienced an interruption in their primary education, linkages to educational resources are important components:
This educational component as a reflection of belief in the resiliency of the youth in TAY Project 40. Trauma, SED, and mental health issues do not necessarily lead to a lifelong disability. Youth can use TAY Project 40 resources to move towards greater stability and self-sustainability. TAY Project 40 ushers in dramatic and needed change to service delivery for TAY in greatest need on the streets of Hollywood, with the potential for infuse a greater understanding of the evidence-based practices that are most effective with the most at risk among TAY experiencing homelessness and exhibiting symptoms of trauma and mental health issues.
Step Up is also a member of the Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership (HHYP), a strategic alliance of youth-serving agencies including: Los Angeles Children’s Hospital; Los Angeles Youth Network; My Friend’s Place; Los Angeles LGBT Center; and Covenant House. The goal of HHYP is to prevent and reduce homelessness among youth and young adults in Hollywood through: service impact; training and capacity building; research and evaluation; and policy and advocacy. Its member agencies are among the pre-eminent experts on the issues of youth homelessness in Los Angeles. As service providers, HHYP works to achieve best practices in service delivery with the goal of strengthening interventions to help homeless youth exit the streets, overcoming the traumatic experiences at the core of their homelessness. Since 2000, the HHYP has been a Level III Community Trauma Treatment Center under the auspices of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. In addition, HHYP members have drafted numerous policy briefs addressing the needs of former foster youth and homeless youth and the impact that trauma has had on their lives. HHYP seeks collaboration with reputable agencies committed to supporting homeless youth and young adults in their transition towards stability.
Maria Jeffery, LCSW, joined Step Up as Program Manager of Daniels Place in December, 2016. Before joining Step Up, Maria held the position of TAY Lead Service Coordinator III for Step Up on Second. Maria has worked with the TAY population in the public school system, criminal justice system, at the university level, in community mental health and at the Macro level with Department of Mental Health over the past 8 years. Maria is energetic and dedicated to helping youth successfully transition into adulthood.