live / 2016

Creating a home is a bridge to creating community

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by A Sense of Home

A holistic approach to transform the lives of at-risk foster youth who “age out” of the system by creating their first ever homes


Please describe your project proposal.

ASOH brings together volunteers to serve as a family would utilizing donated furniture to create the youth’s first permanent living space. The state of one’s “home” affects one’s physical health, cognitive development, social/emotional well-being & how an individual views themselves. By creating a physical home that embodies the aspirations of each youth & connecting them with a community of care— Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is satisfied & the youth can focus on building a prosperous future.

Which of the live metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Self-sufficiency
  • Resilient communities
  • Homelessness

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • South Bay
  • Antelope Valley
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to live?

With an all former foster youth staff, and former foster youth paying it forward, ASOH is a solution to recidivism being implemented by whom the impact is intended. ASOH is a solution being implemented by former foster youth, shoulder to shoulder with a swelling community of volunteers. ASOH is true grassroots community building. It began in LA and is ready to be replicated in every major city in the USA. The youth become inspired to be as successful as their new environment, move from an existence of scarcity and survival towards building a prosperous future (with the support of a community of care). Eliminating the financial impossibility of furnishing one’s home dramatically improves cognitive capacity & emotional intelligence & an uncluttered, organized, and serene home environment has been proven to significantly improve the productivity of an employee & student & the ability to build & form healthy relationships. Every 2 minutes a child enters foster care in the US. A large percentage of those kids are never adopted. Up to 35,000 age-out of the system each year having never been adopted. Aging out foster youth are more likely than those in the general population to • become incarcerated, homeless, not finish high school, be unemployed, be dependent on public assistance , have addiction issues, & higher rates of PTS. Aging-out youth cost the US $8 billion/year. LA County has the largest population of foster youth aging out of the system. A full 50% fall into homelessness. Resourceful former foster youth may secure Section 8 housing but with no support system to help them set up their first homes, their apartments are empty of furniture and basic necessities most people take for granted. Having already endured lives of emotional and/or physical trauma, these young people have no sense of security. They‘re left to fend for themselves, quite often sleeping, eating and studying on bare floors. They store their belongings in plastic garbage bags. Together, as a community, ASOH is a proven model to reduce youth moving back into homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, & mental health issues. Each home creation is a true celebration of youth who beat the odds, and through ASOH they become agents of change. The key is the human-to-human connection, one youth at a time, and the fact that they are both the drivers of the solution and the recipients of the outcome.
Another important aspect of the ASOH model is the seamless experiential and powerful process of the home creation that provides a bridge between communities. Working side-by-side, adult volunteers become mentors to the youth and open career opportunities. The entire experience unearths youth’s sense of dignity, self-worth, & confidence. The completion of each home creation is celebrated with a housewarming party in which youth share their stories and educate the gathered through powerful spoken word poetry, original music and songs.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

In just two years, ASOH has created 125 homes and has placed 185 youth in beds. We are currently creating a minimum of two homes per week, 130 homes over the next 12 months. We are powered by 3,000 volunteers giving over 300,000 hours annually.

ASOH documents the effects of the home creation experience from beginning to end in multiple modalities. A pre-assessment is administered & again 6 months and then a year after the home creation.

In 2 years all youth are still in homes, are on an upward trajectory in terms of career, education & emotional well being.

There are several formal psychological assessments that ASOH will be integrating into a more elaborate assessment process. These instruments measure areas that are important for these youth for their recovery from trauma and their life-long success in life. These are:

  • The Emotional Quotient Test – measuring all aspects of emotional intelligence
  • The Trauma Symptom Inventory
  • The Tennessee Self-Concept Scale
  • The Behavioral Rating Inventory for Executive Function (BRIEF)

Additionally ASOH is inviting outside assessments that might affect policy . For example APS Fellow Eldar Shafir of Princeton University published in Vol. 341 of Science, that individuals functioned 10 IQ points higher when they were not living in scarcity. The National Scientific Council Report attributes substandard housing and separation from parent(s), among the main factors that are toxic to the developing brain.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Support of the city