Each year more than 20,000 young people “age out” of the foster care system. For many of them, their childhood and adolescent years were marked by the instability of multiple placements. As a result, these youth are at a higher risk for unemployment, poor academic achievement, early parenthood and homelessness than their peers living at home with their families.
When youth in foster care “age out,” they no longer have the assistance of the state or foster families and many of them do not have the skills to live on their own. According to an article in Children’s Issues, in just four years after leaving foster care, 25% of “aged out” youth have been homeless, 42% have become parents, fewer than 20% are able to support themselves, and only 46% have graduated from high school.
Unable to earn a wage sufficient for obtaining suitable housing, many end up in homeless shelters. In Philadelphia, the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Design are collaborating in a project to develop innovative affordable housing. The project, the Bernice Eliza Homes in the West Powelton section of the city, is a recently opened new six-family apartment house catering to hard-to-place homeless youth with children.
According to Gloria Guard, president of the non-profit PEC, which provides shelter and service to homeless families, there is a great demand for this type of housing. Many of those in the organization’s shelters have “aged out” of the city’s foster care system. For them, the PEC is providing hope for the future as well as a home.