Housing program gives homeless youth a boost

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medium_bilde_0.jpgDetroit News— It was just a few months ago that LaKeisha Johnson and her small children slept in a car when they couldn't count on a relative or a friend to provide them with a place to stay.

On Thursday, Johnson, 24, showed off her new two-bedroom apartment at Oakman Place Apartments, part of a program to house young, homeless adults, as well as those who have aged out of the state's foster care system.

"This is beautiful," said Johnson, as she showed off the expansive ground floor apartment, fully furnished with new furniture. "It doesn't seem real."

The 24-unit, three-story complex on Oakman Boulevard near Woodrow Wilson includes gated parking and a washer and dryer in each apartment.

The $5.1 million development is the result of a partnership that includes Lutheran Child & Family Service of Michigan, Focus:HOPE and Michigan State Housing Development Authority MSHDA.

Robert G. Miles, president and CEO of Lutheran Child & Family Service of Michigan, said the Oakman Place program provides adequate housing and other support services for homeless youth and those who "age out of the welfare system."

"Very few of our own children make the transition into adulthood without ongoing support and supportive services," Miles said. "Through this development, we have become more sensitized to the number of families who are challenged to find adequate, safe and affordable housing."

Miles said Thursday he hopes the residents will "love each other, support each other and become a community."

Selecting the first families to live in Oakman Place was a difficult task for social worker Carolyn Rayford, the deputy regional director for Lutheran Child & Family Service.

"That was pretty emotional deciding which person to choose," Rayford said Thursday. "We had well over 100 applicants."

Rayford said there is no time limit to how long the residents can stay in the apartments. They also receive job assistance and support programs for continuing their education.

Johnson, who is six months pregnant, said she is looking forward to re-enrolling in college to become a math teacher so she can support herself and her kids.

The residents pay between $2 and $300 a month rent for their apartments on a sliding scale depending on their income.

Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, who attended the grand opening of Oakman Place, said the program shows "compassion is alive in our city and our state."

Sierra Spencer, another resident of Oakman Place, said Thursday she had exhausted all options for a place to live, and the opportunity at the complex came along at the right time.

"Thanks to Lutheran Family & Child Services, he's able to have a home," Spencer said of her infant son, whom she cradled at Thursday's luncheon.

"I didn't know what I was going to do," said Spencer. "It's amazing how lucky we both got."

bwilliams@detnews.com 

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