New housing initiative to focus on young adults
by Jen Colletta
Apr 17, 2014 | 689 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Entertainer Jon Bon Jovi will be in town next week to mark the opening of the JBJ Soul Homes — a residential community for formerly homeless and low-income individuals, with a special focus on young adults.

JBJ Soul Homes will officially open its doors at 1415 Fairmount Ave. on April 22. The project, spearheaded by Project HOME, was made possible by private funding from the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, Leigh and John Middleton and Elizabeth Moran, as well as support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city.

Project HOME will manage the 55 apartment units, and People for People, Inc., will head up the retail space in the building.

Residents will pay 30 percent of their income toward rent. Forty of the units will be reserved for formerly homeless individuals and eight for young adults.

Project Home, launching its 25th-anniversary year, is partnering with Covenant House for a pilot youth program at the residence. Young adults moving into the building will have access to case managers, employment and education services and life-skills education. If the program is successful, it will be implemented at other Project HOME residences.

Carolyn Crouch-Robinson, residential project manager at JBJ Soul Homes, said the statistics facing youth aging out of foster care are staggering: 45 percent will experience homelessness; 50 percent haven’t completed high school; 60 percent have difficulty maintaining consistent employment; 29 percent report substance-abuse problems; 41 percent seek public assistance within four years; and 33 percent of women will have a pregnancy by age 17. Additionally, 70 percent of prison inmates have a foster-care history.

“We want to help decrease some of those numbers over time,” Crouch-Robinson said. “We want to be able to track and see if some of the outcomes decrease.”

Many of the young people moving into JBJ Soul Homes are working part-time and in college part-time. They will work with staff to ensure their educational and employment goals stay on track and will get practical guidance on maintaining their own living space, as well as other services.

The pilot initiative is slated for five years — during which time Crouch-Robinson said up to 200 young adults, ages 18-25, may come through the program.

The project could be particularly valuable for helping LGBT young adults get on their feet, she said.

“LGBT youth represent 5-7 percent of the U.S. population but 20-40 percent of the homeless population in the United States,” Crouch-Robinson said. “It’s estimated that 600 youth who identify as LGBT are homeless every night in Philadelphia.”

Crouch-Robinson said a Project HOME task force, comprised of residents and staff, is drafting a workshop curriculum focused on LGBT topics for all residents. The agency is also exploring options for connecting LGBT residents.

“We’ve been hearing from a few people in the LGBTQ community that they’re feeling isolated, so we want to see if residents are open to taking part in something like an activities night, a social event,” she said. “We want to figure out how they want to approach it and have this particular support system in place that they can make their own.”

The organization is also developing diversity training and support systems for people who have been victimized in the past.

Project HOME co-founder Sister Mary Scullion said JBJ Soul Homes’ comprehensive approach will be integral to empowering residents.

“The single most effective way to end homelessness is affordable housing,” Scullion said. “Over time, JBJ Soul Homes will give hundreds of people a permanent home with supportive services that will allow them to flourish.”

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