Supportive housing groups in America are excited about a
European model that helps young adults who lack peer or family
support groups move into adulthood. Long-established in France,
England and Ireland, foyers are beginning to open here.
The basic mission of a foyer is to provide at-risk 18- to
24-year-olds with transitional housing and supportive services.
Foyers are a way "to help people who aren't ready to be on their
own to develop the life skills, job skills and maturity to lead
independent, successful lives," said Sister Paulette LoMonaco,
executive director of New York City's Good Shepherd Services.
Teenagers who are homeless or who are aging-out of foster care
are the primary groups foyers are targeting. "It's such an
important need for all of us, having a safe place to live. Having
support and some direction and training is vital to every single
human being at that age," pointed out Mikkel Beckmen, a program
officer for the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH).
CSH is a national group that works with other organizations to
develop supportive housing and is a strong supporter of the foyer
movement. In Minnesota, CSH helped the Salvation Army put together
a development team to turn unused space in an existing building
into 10 units of foyer housing, the nation's first.
In December, the first group of five residents moved in to the
Booth Brown House Foyer in St. Paul. Because of an adjoining
homeless facility serving 11- to 17-year-olds, Booth Brown lowered
the age range the foyer serves. Residents must be 16 to 21 years
old. "The overwhelming majority has lived in foster care,
regardless of whether they came directly from there," said Corey
Sentieri, program manager.
After screening out youth who are not suitable for the program,
a case manager and the resident negotiate an action plan with five
areas of goals: education, employment, financial, independent
living skills and volunteer opportunities. This becomes a contract
between the resident and the facility, and includes a 10-module
system that the resident is tested on each month to achieve those
The foyer is staffed at all times. When residents walk in,
they're greeted at the front desk. Residents can then go to their
efficiency units, each with its own kitchen and bathroom, or spend
time in the common lounge area, computer lab, eating area or
In the traditional foyer model, one-third of the residents have
high needs, one-third medium needs and one-third low needs, but
Sentieri said that they've taken in a much higher percentage of
high-needs youth. Nonetheless, the heavy level of support needed in
the beginning quickly drops, and the longer-term residents are now
mentoring the new ones.
If residents have income, they pay 30% of it for rent. Usually
residents have some form of government subsidy when they arrive.
Some find jobs, while others continue their educations. Regardless
of the path chosen, Sentieri said that "working with the kids at
this age breaks the cycle" that would otherwise lead them to
homelessness as adults.
Funding a foyer is a giant hurdle in most cases, but not for
Booth Brown. One private donation covered the $850,000 rehab and
what are projected to be the operating costs for two years. A small
United Way donation augmented this.
Another foyer in New York City was scheduled to open first, but
construction delays moved the expected opening to the end of
February. The Chelsea Foyer is part of Common Ground Community's
massive renovation of the residential annex of the McBurney
When completed, Chelsea Residences will have 207
single-occupancy residences, 40 of which will constitute Chelsea
Foyer. The foyer, with its own entrance and a private elevator,
will take up a narrow area on five floors. On the first floor are
staff offices and a large lounge, and each of the other floors has
a four-bedroom suite with a kitchen and two shared bathrooms plus
six single units with kitchenettes and bathrooms. Other common
areas include a computer room, rehearsal room, multipurpose room,
laundry room and TV room.
The Chelsea Foyer will also be staffed at all times. A dedicated
case manager will negotiate an 18-month action plan for each
resident, help the resident achieve the goals, and address whatever
individual needs the resident has.
Common Ground, a major nonprofit provider of affordable
supportive housing, is the facilities manager, but the units are
leased to Good Shepherd Services (GSS), which has deep experience
in youth development. Services will be more extensive, taking
advantage of the broad offerings of both big city nonprofits as
well as outside private and public agencies.
At press time, GSS was conducting an intensive intake process
that involved a two-hour interview, a multi-page application,
references, a physical, and mutual assessment. The target
population is 18- to 24-year-olds who are homeless or coming out of
foster care, ideally in school or working, said Yvonne Forbes, GSS
Services are mainly funded through the federal McKinney-Vento
program. Other sources include the city's Administration for
Children's Supportive Independent Living Program, the New York City
Department of Homeless Services, and welfare. Residents pay a
program fee that will be given to them as a grant if they complete
The total development cost for all units of the Chelsea
Residences is $29 million. Funding includes $16.9 million from the
New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development,
$5 million from the New York State Homeless Assistance Program,
$6.5 million in tax credit equity syndicated through MMA Financial,
and $1 million from a Federal Home Loan Bank of New York Affordable
Housing Program loan.