The Palace: Renovated Apartment Building Offers New Hope for Emancipated Foster Kids

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The Palace apartments for emancipated foster kids

The Palace has 13 studio apartments, common areas and ground-level retail space.

Life just got better for 13 former foster youth.  Today, Mayor Bob Foster, Councilmember Patrick O’Donnell, 4th District, The Long Beach Housing Development Company (LBHDC), LINC Housing, and United Friends of the Children (UFC) celebrated the grand opening of The Palace, a renovated building that includes 13 apartments for young adults who have aged out of the foster care system.

The Palace will provide a stable home to hundreds of young adults working toward gaining employment, finding their own apartment, and completing their education,” Mayor Bob Foster said. “Today is a day for celebration as we empower these young adults on their journey to become successful and independent adults.”

In Los Angeles County, more than 22,000 children are in foster care, and every year 1,400 emancipate. Without meaningful intervention, many of these young people will become homeless or chronically unemployed within two -to four years of leaving foster care.  In California, 36 percent of foster youth become homeless within 18 months of emancipation.  These alarming statistics were the backdrop for LINC, UFC and Long Beach’s partnership to create a better future for these young adults.

“When I first learned about this crisis from a PBS documentary I saw 15 years ago, I knew we needed to be part of a solution,” said Long Beach City Councilman Patrick O’Donnell.  “The Palace is a result of public and private sectors working together to be part of the solution – providing the resources and services to support foster youth at the crucial transitional moments in their lives.”

The renovation of the historic 1920s hotel began in summer 2010.  In addition to the 13 studio apartments, the building includes a manager’s unit, common areas, and offices for program services. Ground floor retail space will be occupied by iCracked, an iPhone and iPad repair service that will hire residents from The Palace. The update includes a variety of sustainability features including Energy Star appliances, recycled materials, a high efficiency HVAC system, and dual-flush toilets. Photovoltaic solar panels and ClearEdge5 fuel cell technology are also incorporated to help reduce utility costs. The building is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council and is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.

“The Long Beach Housing Development Company recognizes that there is a tremendous need to provide affordable housing opportunities to young adults aging out of the foster care system,” said Patrick Brown, Chair of The LBHDC.  “Through a coordinated and committed approach with our partners, we were able to deliver the first project of its kind into the City of Long Beach – helping to ensure the success of emancipated foster youth.”

“Housing is a vital foundation for everyone,” said Hunter L. Johnson, LINC’s president and CEO.  “It’s been incredibly rewarding to watch the transformation of this historic building, and it will be even more rewarding to see these young adults successfully transition from foster care to independence.  LINC is proud to help create this place of hope.”

Barry, a new resident at The Palace, summed it up when he said, “I come from a life of struggle and a heart of hope, the Palace is my hope.”

As residents enjoy their own apartments, they’ll also take part in UFC’s innovative Pathways Transitional Living program.  The program, now offered at six housing facilities throughout Los Angeles County serves more than 100 youth annually, creating enduring relationships and challenging program participants to better themselves in a safe and secure environment.

“UFC’s prides itself on delivering quality programs that achieve life changing results for LA’s foster youth,” adds Polly Williams, President of UFC. “Our College Readiness Program has achieved a staggering 95% high-school graduation rate, our College Sponsorship program sees 70% of all participants earn their bachelors degree, and our Pathways program has helped enable 86% of its active alumni to find stable housing and 74% secure employment.”

A portion of the $6.2 million in funding for The Palace came from the federal stimulus package included in The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and created many local construction jobs. Additional funds came from the LBHDC, The Federal Home Loan Bank, U.S. Bank, and Preservation Partners Development. Funds supporting the fuel cells and photovoltaic solar panels were provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through the National Trust Loan Fund, and a grant from The Ahmanson Foundation paid for the apartment and common area furnishings as well as the rooftop furniture. Financial support from the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Association helped fund the historic restoration of the neon hotel sign and brick repainting, and a grant from The Home Depot Foundation helped support the sustainable design and LEED certification.

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