Bread Head Youth Ambassadors: Building a Resilient Community
The LA2050 Grant will expand our Community Ambassador program where we hire young adults in our community to do peer outreach for Bread Head programming and events around food literacy, health, and wellness. While the program intends to inspire hired ambassadors to strengthen job readiness skills in a workforce they are passionate about, it also addresses issues of social isolation and brings awareness to systemic challenges impacting housing insecurity, including: malnourishment, mental illness, generational poverty, and stigmatization.
Please describe the mission of your organization.
Bread Head’s mission is to empower young adults experiencing housing insecurity with food literacy, life skills, and positive relationships. With our intentional community, we hope to inspire personal growth, independence, and balanced living.
In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?
- City of Los Angeles
In what stage of innovation is this project?Expand existing program
Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.
- Safe Place for Youth (SPY)
- UCLA Center for Community Learning (UCLA CCL)
- Venice Community Housing (VCH)
- Department of Mental Health (DMH)
If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.
We know that collaboration is key to building community resilience. Our partnerships with SPY and VCH help us recruit Ambassadors for employment and assist members in maintaining stable housing. In this way, we strengthen pathways to employment for YouthBuild graduates and residents of the Roots to Grow housing project. UCLA CCL will work with us to engage city-wide colleges in the areas of food justice, housing insecurity, and job training. Finally, our partnership with DMH allows Ambassadors to survey service providers about members’ experiences surrounding accessibility, staff-to-peer communication, and healing-centered engagement. After evaluation, Ambassadors communicate with DMH staff about gaps in services and collaborate to find innovative solutions.
What is the need you’re responding to?
In March 2019, we formed our Youth Advisory Board with the intention to gauge needs for PAN, our program to teach recently housed youth to cook on a CalFresh budget. We left with an understanding of other serious issues: 1) Limitations of services for individuals experiencing houselessness. 2) Increased social isolation experienced when transitioning into housing, from both their community on the streets and the general population they are expected to assimilate to.
This inspired adding two new programs: CHEW, which provides access to life skills around food literacy, health and wellness, and the Community Ambassador Program, where youth leaders are hired to engage the community to inform and access our programs. Building community resources and goals of balanced living is critical, no matter where a person is in the housing process. Conducting outreach at city-wide agencies, Ambassadors communicate barriers that perpetuate cycles of vulnerability and collaborate to find solutions.
Why is this project important to the work of your organization?
In April 2019 we met to interview our first Ambassador, a struggling young artist facing chronic housing insecurity. For years they faced challenges related to mental health, gender identity, and job security. Though they had participated in several programs within LA to address these challenges, they still felt unsupported in achieving balanced living.
Now, almost a year later, they have achieved stability and are thriving for the first time in years. Through their unique lens of lived experience, they help us shape our programs to be more inclusive, effective, and trauma informed. Bread Head empowers individuals with the tools and support systems needed to create change in their own lives, and inspires them to civically engage with the entire community. Through creating a model of outreach and advocacy that reflects the diversity of our community we build resiliency. Our current Ambassador is a valued staff member and their voice is incorporated in this grant narrative.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?
- Direct impact
- Indirect impact
Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.
Through Community Ambassador outreach efforts, we discovered patterns at shelters that caused people to return to the streets: mandatory in person case management meetings that caused youth to choose between their shelter bed or employment, and LGBTQ+ discrimination. Communicating these concerns to our partners at DMH, it was discovered that shelter contracts lacked mandatory trainings for staff on trauma informed care. Ambassador collaboration creates broader impact by informing system policies on quality of services delivered.
Expansion of this program increases opportunities to discover barriers experienced at systems that touch the lives of our community, and empowers people with lived experience to collaborate and find solutions.
Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.
Success is measured on key indicators of balanced lifestyle and community resiliency: increasing engagement, retention, food security, life skills developed, sense of self-efficacy and social connection, and placement into continuing education or jobs.
Some of the greatest challenges engaging the community are cultural relevance and consistency. Our Ambassadors facilitate monthly Advisory Boards and outreach efforts to receive community feedback ensuring our programs remain relevant incentives that create solutions around barriers. Through peer lead outreach, our community feels a sense of belonging and accountability to keep referring others and showing up. We keep track of member attendance and impact of programming with validated assessments on longitudinal building of skills, steps towards achieving goals, and strength of social support.
The Ambassador positions are contracted for one year, and their success in completing the program is measured by readiness and placement into workforce or secondary education. There are many services for employment that typically refer clients to customer service or manual labor. While these are vital positions in the workforce, they don’t always inspire members to reach their full potential. Participation in the program bridges this gap by creating case plans for the year that support action to create and achieve goals. The last three months of the program support participants while they apply for next steps that inspire and motivate them.
Which of the live metrics will your submission impact?
- Food insecurity
- Resilient communities
Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?
- LA is the healthiest place to CONNECT
Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?
- Access to the LA2050 community
- Host public events or gatherings
- Communications support
- Office space for meetings, events, or for staff
- Capacity, including staff
- Strategy assistance and implementation
- Tech Support
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