The new community center being built in San José will be an innovative model that integrates services with affordable housing for youth transitioning out of foster care
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.— They call it their “forever Hub.” This is how many current and former foster youth in Santa Clara County affectionately refer to the new community center being built in San José as a large one-stop shop designed by and for foster youth who are up to 24-years-old.
Dontae Lartigue, a former foster youth and one of the founders of the original Hub, recalled the cramped center where he received services as a foster child, describing a fridge that either didn’t work or didn’t have enough space to feed an average of 400 to 500 youth a month. He hopes the new center, which is designed with the input of foster youth, will be an “ah ha” moment for young people who are not used to being heard.
“We started advocating for something we wanted, unlike my childhood when I never knew how to do that,” Lartigue said. “I just hope this is a fresh new start for young people.”
Demolition began in November 2021 on a 1.6-acre site at 1510-1540 Parkmoor Avenue, clearing the way for a project that will integrate two important County goals: to provide housing for foster youth, and to connect them with critical services such as job training, education programs, and health and wellness resources. The new Hub will replace the current youth community center at 591 N. King Road. The look and feel of the building will integrate feedback from foster youth and focus on home-like features, such as outdoor space, a garden and BBQ area for gatherings, and a children’s play area.
“We are starting from scratch with the new Hub and our foster youth will help design it for their specific needs. These are kids with a high level of need and very little support, which makes them vulnerable. With more resources and housing, they will feel safe and be surrounded by caring adults who can assist them with everything from college aid applications to making sure they have clean clothes,” said County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
One of the biggest distinctions of the new center will be the addition of affordable housing, which will be built on the upper floors of the Hub. Some of the units will go to foster youth, with plans for a housing program that offers case management and subsidies for transportation, food, clothes, and utilities. When choosing the new location for the center, one of the County’s main focuses was to find a property that could accommodate housing.
“We know that having services alone is not enough, and that housing is a critical piece if we truly want to make an impact,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith, M.D., J.D. “We want our youth to feel valued, to be empowered to build life skills, to have access to healthcare, and, equally important, we want them to have a safe place to sleep at night.”
In Santa Clara County, about a third of the unhoused youth and young adults assessed in the past year reported they had been through the foster care system, according to data from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
“We know, among our area’s youth, there is an overlap when it comes to homelessness and foster care,” said Consuelo Hernández, Director of the County of Santa Clara Office of Supportive Housing. “The 2020-2025 Community Plan to End Homelessness calls for tailored programs to help unhoused youth and young adults. Not having a stable home is one of the biggest barriers to seeking services. When our foster youth can stop worrying about where they’ll sleep at night, they can focus on finding help to rebuild and strengthen other parts of their lives.”
When the new Hub opens in 2024, the ground floor will house services focused on self-sufficiency, including housing and education support, financial literacy, career development and job training, physical and mental health services, and social and cultural workshops. There will be access to computers and printers, assistance with scholarships and financial aid applications, shower and laundry facilities, and planned activities led by the Youth Leadership Council.
“The integration of housing into the Hub will have an enormous impact on our foster youth,” said Daniel Little, the County’s Director of the Department of Family and Children’s Services. “To have housing and services all together in a space they can feel is their own – this is critical to creating opportunities for youth to become successful, functioning adults in our community.”