By Greg Hernandez
In what Los Angeles LGBT Center Director of Youth Services Lisa Phillips describes as “a once in a lifetime opportunity,” 22 youth members experiencing homelessness have been selected to receive 10 years of rental housing assistance from the federal government.
“People could not be more elated,” Phillips tells LGBT News Now. “There is just a great sense of relief and excitement. For a population that we see hasn’t had a lot of breaks in life, it’s well deserved and very exciting!”
When thousands of emergency housing vouchers became available throughout Los Angeles County as part of the federal American Rescue Plan, the Center’s Youth Services staff sprang into action and submitted applications on behalf of the youth enrolled in the Center’s 18-month Transitional Living Program (TLP) and rapid rehousing programs. The Center was eligible to apply for the vouchers because it commits to providing wraparound services to youth through next year.
Administered by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the county’s overall allotment of 6,806 vouchers are part of approximately 70,000 available nationwide for eligible public housing agencies. The purpose is to help people transition into safe, stable, and permanent housing so a voucher recipient must either be experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness.
“Because there will be so many more people who qualify than there are vouchers available, it’s a big deal we were able to get on top of it right away and have gotten so many young people from our agency matched so far,” said Phillips. “They are able to have 10 years of living in an apartment without having to worry about falling back into homelessness.”
According to Phillips, a 20-year-old trans youth enrolled in the Center’s TLP immediately burst into tears upon hearing the news they had been selected as a voucher recipient. On the previous night, the youth had been going through a personal crisis and considered leaving TLP.
“Although our youth can live in TLP for 18 months, it’s not enough time to finish college or to be at a level professionally where you can support yourself independently in Los Angeles,” said Phillips. “So, this federal rental assistance is a perfect intervention because it gives them 10 years of a headstart either to work on their education or to achieve self-sufficiency.”
Each year the Center serves about 2,000 youth with three-quarters of them experiencing homelessness.