After volunteering with a couple of different Bay Area non-profits over the years and feeling frustrated by what felt like a lack of impact, I heard about First Place for Youth. This organization is inspirational. FP works on the root causes of critical issues and helps those most in need in our communities. The youth served are given a hand up (not "out"), so that they can achieve the same level of sustainable success as their peers who grew up with more stable family support. FP's approach is holisitic, validated with data and the stories shared by the youth they've supported over the years. I'm very proud to be a part of this important and meaningful work.
I am currently a board member at First Place for Youth after learning about the organization from other volunteers, donors, and former board members. I have been very impressed with the organization's management, staff, program participants, fellow board members, and supporters. First Place serves young people transitioning out of foster care, providing housing and counseling to enhance life skills, education and employment. First Place employs rigorous data collection and analysis to track its results and to determine what works and what doesn't. The young people in the program are inspiring, and the senior and direct line staff are very dedicated. I would encourage anyone with an interest in helping foster youth to help themselves to learn about and to support the work of First Place for Youth.
The staff at First Place are highly qualified and dedicated, and the organization is well intentioned. There are some serious problems however, which are masked by misleading and selective outcomes reporting. The often quoted educational outcome for example, which reports the percentage of youth who enroll in an educational program as a marker of success, is vague and misleading. This percentage represents only the percentage of youth who enroll -- as in sign up for a class, usually with strong assistance from a staff member -- at a Community College or vocational program. This percentage does not represent the number of youth who graduate from an educational program, nor the number of youth who even complete the course for which they signed up. Similarly, the percentage of youth who exit to stable housing upon leaving the program, which is touted as another measure of success, is again vague and misleading. Stable housing may include living with a family member, and could in fact be the exact same housing situation a youth was in prior to entering the program. So a youth who was living with a relative enters program, receives a rental subsidy and lives in an apartment for 2 years. Upon exit, that youth returns to live with the same family member. This is certainly better and more stable than homelessness or an unaffordable rental situation, but should not be portrayed as a positive outcome since it represents no actual change.
More inclusive, comprehensive and transparent outcomes would paint a more complete and detailed picture programs, and would help the organization identify and address areas for improvement.
As a former staff member I have a different insight on the agency. I truly believe the CEO Sam Cobbs is great leader and wants to continue to grow this organization into something great. The problem is that some of his executive team do not have the experience or knowledge that staff can believe or rely in. There is so much disconnect between the upper management and staff that it affects the staff's ability to be able to effectively serve the youth and it keeps the moral down. The outcomes are not real but an illusion that the organization needs to create to call itself the model for transitional housing. I enjoyed working with the youth and being a part of their lives but I was not able to provide them the real services they needed. Sam needs to stop creating job titles for senior management and fire and hire competent human resource recruiter who can then fire and hire the people who can really manage the organization. Until that time the youth will just continue to be placed high cost apartments they can never afford to keep and sit two years with baby sitter like I was who created case notes all night trying to convince my manager I was being effective in a youth's life.
I am a participating youth in program right now. First Place really offers good services to help youth with housing, helping us to get jobs, go to college, everything. I really like my youth advocate. She is really helpful and is always there to talk to me about housing issues or anything. She is just someone I can talk to no matter what. Just last week, my youth advocate and the education/employment coordinator took me on a field trip to the local fire department after I said I was interested in becoming a firefighter. It was really cool because I got to go out on a real emergency call and talk with people that actually do the work. First Place does a LOT for the youth and I am very lucky to be part of program.
FPFY is a wonderful program that has helped me budget bills and to save my money and has helped me get into my apartment. I'm so thankful to have my own bedroom a place where I can cook dinner and relax. Not only am I a participate with FPFY I'm also an employee. I'm happy with the people who have entered my life, when I first entered program I didn't have a mother now I have 12 who help and guide me with my personal life.
I appreciate FPFY helping with budgeting bills and help with food vouchers and transportations. I truly like the support from having no mother to having 12 mothers who have helped in all areas of my life. Not only am I a participate but a employee of FPFY. I really like the family environment, it helps with discussing issues.
Well first place is a good program to get a great start in life. They have one on one help for jobs and resumes to help you get a job and complete your goals in life. Successful or not it the best way to save money and meet knew people. Note: learn to budget money, Build your credit with pg&e, learn to live in a new envionment,they set u up to live in good neighborhood. Youth Advocate to attend to your needs 24/7 hot line if needed.
I really love what First Place has done for my child and I. I like their many programs in one and how they love to help youth reach their goals. All of the staff are loving and caring. Special thanks to Deidre Goree. I really have a place for you in my heart. Lonisha
First place for youth is a all around wonderful program i myself is a alumni of the program and now an employee. so for me first place is not just a housing program but a career opportunities as well. i give all the thumbs up!!!!!!
First Place staff support really helps youth. The fact that they help your organize a plan for your goals and help you accomplish them is the greatest.
I'm a current First Place participant emancipating from program in July and I must say that First Place has been such a SAVIOR for me! I, honestly, don't even want to think about what would have happened to me after I emancipated from the system without FP. I'd been in the system since I was 4 years old, had no experience whatsoever in supporting myself and was not even close to ready to live on my own. First Place taught me the most findamental things I needed to know to support myself like how to create a budget and manage my money. They showed me how to enroll in classes and financial aid and how to find work. They offered workshops for all of these things... Actually the job I currently have (working at Safeway) I found through the Safeway Orientation workshop held at the FP office and I've just been recommended for my first promotion! They also gave me a Youth Advisor with whom I've created a trusting bond with to help me with the struggles of being independant. My FPYA has helped me in so many ways with my personal life and learning how to live independantly such as balancing work and play and prioritizing correctly so I can get my stuff taken care of. I sincerely believe that every county in the state, if not the entire country, should have a program like First Place. They have helped me so much in these past two years and, in July, I know that I will be ready to move into my own as a self sufficient, independant adult. THANK YOU FIRST PLACE! -Albert
The programs design to help foster youth with housing and other services is great. Im a former First place youth and the actual design is not what happens. I was placed in an apartment and was told my youth avocate would meet with me once a week but I was without a avocate for 3 months. First place regional manager told me it was due to miscommunication. I dont think it should of happened and they are a business and not communicating internal is bad. Overall I had housing at a reduced rent for a year and that was excellent and Im working on my second year of college. With first places help I was able to go to school fulltime and work part time and now Im in my own apartment without first place help. Im happy I had the year with the reduced rent.
I've been on the Board for one year now, and been a donor to First Place for more than five. I began supporting them because of my work with homeless adults and discovering that more than half of them had been part of the foster care system as children! At 18, foster youth lose all financial and empotional support from the State and are expected to be able to make it on their own - the reality is most don't even have their high school diplomas yet and many become homeless, teen parents, and/or involved in criminal activities. First Place provides the practical and caring support that many of us received from our parents to help these youth transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency. The staff are great champions for the youth, and the peer counselors help the young people to see that they really can change their lives. Although I'm impressed with the staff, program, and outcome measures, it is meeting the youth in the program that has inspired me most.