“what would our communities and our society look like if the collective vision, leadership, energy and talents of even a small percentage of all young people were directed toward community transformations?”
This year, the Youth Outreach Advocate of the Eviction Defense Network is focusing on developing a housing advocacy youth leadership program in downtown Los Angeles. By working with youth (ages 13-18) directly in Los Angeles high schools, the YOA helps facilitate leadership development so they can find their own ways to help their families, school mates, and neighbors to protect against poor housing conditions and evictions. Activities on housing education and economic empowerment such as the “Create your Ideal Community” and “Jeopardy: Types of Affordable Housing” will build on youth creativity and energy. Trainings on causes for eviction, how to read rental contracts, and Los Angeles housing codes will educate students around housing defense. Communication, “how to outreach,” and community building workshops will build on youth leadership. In addition, the students will connect to the large Spanish speaking population in LA by translating and raising awareness around the eviction process through student led workshops. As their leadership develops, the students will begin to take larger steps in addressing their housing issues by participating in arts and education projects such as the Home Sweet Home: Stories of Urban Housing in the Big City Youth Film Festival on Social Justice. During this Spring 2008 the students will put their lessons into community action as they will plan and execute the first annual youth oriented and run tenant rights fair at their high school.
Results: After only 6 six months, the Youth Outreach Advocate has provided tenant rights, gentrification, and housing workshops to nearly 600 students. After follow-up and partnerships with both Los Angeles High School and the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex, about 30 high school students have become actively engaged in participating in housing defense trainings, conducting survey projects, and planning workshops. After the youth run survey project collected over 400 student surveys, it was determined that about 1 in 3 high school students know friends or family that have been displaced/evicted, 1 out of 2 live in substandard housing conditions, and 1 in 3 believe their home living situations affect their academic achievement.