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Friday, June 3, 2011

YWCA Greater Cleveland Offers Supportive Housing for Former Foster Youth

Independence Place Serves as a Model for Helping Society's Most Vulnerable Young People

CLEVELAND, June 2, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For most teenagers, turning 18 represents the milestone of "coming of age." For teens in foster care, that birthday also brings a less hopeful term: "aging out." At 18, most of these young adults are no longer eligible for the support they were able to rely on as children. Often, they are left homeless and unable to support themselves and, in some cases, their own small children.

Now, for former foster youth in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, there is an alternative. The YWCA Greater Cleveland has opened Independence Place, a permanent supportive residential facility for young adults 18-24 years old who have aged out of foster care and have nowhere to turn.

"Many of the young adults who transition out of foster care are all alone and, through no fault of their own, find themselves in desperate circumstances," said Margaret Mitchell, YWCA Greater Cleveland president and CEO. Studies show that within four years of emancipation from foster care nearly a quarter of these young adults have been homeless, nearly a quarter have not earned a high school diploma or GED, fewer than half are employed and almost half have experienced significant financial hardships.

Such statistics have driven the YWCA Greater Cleveland to its position at the forefront of providing comprehensive services for this often-overlooked population. In 2008, the organization established a program called NIA (Nurturing Independence & Aspirations) for young women, ages 14-24, who are involved in or have transitioned from the foster care system. NIA provides encouragement and support to approximately 100 participants each year.

The recently opened Independence Place is among only a handful of programs in the country offering permanent supportive housing to these young adults as they work toward self-sufficiency. Each of the 23 fully furnished apartments includes a kitchenette, private full bath, air conditioning and a large closet. The facility also offers a community room, laundry room and a playroom for children. Through the NIA program, residents have access to supportive services including classes that teach GED preparation, parenting skills, job readiness and independent living skills.

"Independence Place is a place of promise and hope," Mitchell said. "We believe this innovative model of residential support will be one that is replicated across the country."

CONTACT: Dawn Hanson, 216.229.5220,

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