Homeless unaccompanied youth and those aging out of foster care will soon have an apartment complex in Vancouver specifically for them.
Caples Terrace is a 28-unit public housing building in Vancouver Housing Authority’s Skyline Crest neighborhood slated to welcome its first tenants next month. The project has been in the works for two years and is a first for the housing authority, which has never done a project targeting this specific population.
Executive Director Roy Johnson said youth aging out of the foster care system have a difficult time when they turn 18 and there are limited resources for youth who are homeless and without a parental safety net.
“They’re just out there with nothing. How do you get to bring yourself up when you’re that age and you have nothing? You don’t know what resources are available,” Johnson said. “Usually the youth are not going to go to the places with adult services. Usually they separate themselves out.”
Caples Terrace is intended for those ages 18 to 24 who earn a maximum of 50 percent of the area median income, or $30,800 for a single person and $35,200 for a couple, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s income guidelines. Residents will pay 35 percent of their income as rent. Johnson hopes Caples Terrace is a launching point for tenants as they build skills to become self-sufficient.
Hilaree Prepula, program manager at neighboring Bridgeview, said residents will be part of the agency’s self-sufficiency program, which uses housing stability as a springboard to pursue education, training and employment.
She’s gotten referrals from several agencies interested in housing youth at Caples Terrace, including homeless liaisons at local schools and Clark College’s Passport to Youth program. The state Department of Child Youth and Families has foster youth about to age out of services and those in extended foster care, and Janus Youth is referring young people who are literally homeless and frequent The Perch.
“It’s actually a really diverse group,” Prepula said.
The project cost $8.2 million. More than half of the funding came from low-income housing tax credits, with the rest covered by an award from Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fund and Vancouver Housing Authority, most of which came from previously sold public housing units.
The housing authority previously got rid of public housing but reinstated it for this project, which could be converted to Section 8 housing in the future.
Each unit is built with features in mind for those learning to be in a home of their own, such as soft-closing cabinet doors, drains in the bathroom and kitchen floors, and Sensi-Temp Technology on the stovetop that automatically shuts off burners if they’re at an unsafe cooking temperature. Johnson said it’s new technology he wishes had been available when the housing authority built Lincoln Place, a complex for chronically homeless adults in downtown Vancouver.
“We’ve learned from our other homeless developments things we need to be aware of,” he said.
The location within Skyline Crest is also strategic. Residents will have access to an in-house property manager, the Bridgeview Education and Employment Resource Center, and (for those with young children) the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington’s Heights O.K. 2 Clubhouse.
Prepula said youth who had aged out of the foster care system were part of a focus group for Caples Terrace.
“They were instrumental in informing the process and the development,” she said. “We asked them to describe their ideal community and they described — not even knowing where this property was — the Skyline community to a T.”
The youth wanted access to banking services (Lighthouse Community Credit Union has a location at Bridgeview), a childcare facility and a safe and secure community. Vancouver Housing Authority also toured a similar facility in Portland called New Meadows to get ideas for Caples Terrace.
The three-story complex has two two-bedroom units, six one-bedroom units and 20 studios.
There are laundry rooms on each floor and a rooftop deck.