As graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley-Goldman School of Public Policy, Amy Lemley and Deanne Pearn were struck by how many young people who grew up in foster care were facing intense challenges, including poverty and homelessness, after aging out of care. With a small grant in hand and inspired to help break the cycle of poverty for these vulnerable youth, they launched First Place for Youth, the first organization in Northern California dedicated exclusively to addressing the lack of affordable housing and resources for former foster kids.

February 2021


First Place celebrated three major regional anniversaries in 2020: 5 years in Santa Clara County, 10 years in Los Angeles, and 15 years in Contra Costa County.

Staff take rapid action to address the immediate needs of young people with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including providing supplemental stipends for groceries and delivering personal health and safety supplies. Moving to virtual programming for workshops and frequent video calls and texts for one-on-one support helps our participants keep moving forward toward their goals.

July 2019


Cincinnati joins the My First Place Network as we partner with the Greenlight Fund, Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services, and St. Joseph Orphanage.

We continue to move forward in creating an iLearning system. This system will help us use existing data more effectively to identify the most effective interventions and supports for individual youth based on their unique circumstances and characteristics.

The Ready to Launch Campaign wraps up, having successfully supported our expansion and growth since 2015 through $16.4 million in contributions from more than 1,600 donors.

December 2018


In the latter half of 2018, Heidi McIntosh becomes the third CEO of First Place for Youth. Our My First Place Network expands to New York with The Children’s Village as our newest partner, and United Airlines invests in our Los Angeles programs with a $1 Million grant and on-going career exploration opportunities for participants.

May 2018


First Place goes to work in Mississippi through a partnership with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunity Initiative and the Mississippi State Department of Child Protective Services.

Other highlights

  • A new housing partnership in Santa Monica marks our fourth service site in Los Angeles County
  • We are projected to house 700 young people in our 20th year in operation

December 2017


First Place’s moves forward in our vision for a national reach as Hopewell, Inc. in Massachusetts becomes the first organization to sign on as a partner through the My First Place Affiliate Network.

Other highlights

  • New housing partnerships in San Francisco and Los Angeles expand our ability to connect youth with long-term affordable housing and on-site services
  • With $10 million in donations and pledges already surpassed, the Ready to Launch campaign is extended to a $15 million goal

July 2016


With Super Bowl 50 taking place in Santa Clara, the 50 Fund recognizes First Place as one of the organizations working to “change the game” in the Bay Area, awarding a $500,000 grant to support expansion in Santa Clara County.

Other highlights

  • The Ready to Launch growth campaign begins with an initial goal of $10 million
  • FirstPlaceforYou.org launches to provide young people with an introduction to First Place’s programs
  • The first two youth in our Santa Clara program move from homelessness to stable housing

July 2015


A partnership with Mark Bradford’s Art + Practice allows First Place to open our second Los Angeles office, putting the organization on track to double the number of youth served in Southern California.

Other highlights

  • First Place launches a single-site housing program through a partnership with Alameda Point Collaborative, allowing us to provide our most in-need youth with additional supervision and guidance
  • As we approach our 18th birthday, First Place recruits NFL stars and other celebrities for the #WhenIWas18 campaign to raise awareness of the unique challenges and concerns facing foster youth on the edge of adulthood

July 2014


First Place makes significant strides in being able to provide expanded support and services to transition age youth in San Francisco, assuming management of the county’s Independent Living Skills Program and entering into a service partnership at Mercy Housing’s Ocean Avenue Apartments.

Other highlights

  • First Place is running an operating budget of over $15 million

July 2012


Results from the MFP formative evaluation are in and they show early evidence of efficacy, fidelity, and adaptability, as well as positive outcomes in education, employment, housing and healthy living that may be traced to core elements of the First Place model.

Other highlights

  • First Place partners with the James Irvine Foundation to pilot a healthcare career pathways program in Alameda County
  • First Place assumes management of the Independent Living Skills Program in Solano County, allowing us to begin serving youth at age 16

July 2011


First Place receives a $3 million pilot grant from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to expand our capacity to serve more youth and train providers on our model.

Other highlights

  • 400 youth are housed through My First Place
  • The National Alliance to End Homelessness recognizes First Place as a best practice model for creating positive, lasting outcomes for youth at risk of homelessness

July 2010


After seeing the high need for services in Southern California, First Place takes our expansion beyond the San Francisco Bay Area, opening a fifth program office in Los Angeles.

Other highlights

  • AB 12 is signed into law, creating a statewide extended foster care system
  • Public/Private Ventures begins an external evaluation of the My First Place program to determine efficacy and impact

July 2009


First Place focuses on policies to benefit transition age youth, successfully petitioning Oakland to earmark a portion of homelessness funding specifically for youth and working closely with state legislators in strategizing for a bill to extend foster care to age 21 (AB 12).

Other highlights

  • 295 youth housed
  • First Place receives significant funding support from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and the Andrus Family Fund

July 2008


First Place and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates partner to open the Madison Apartments in downtown Oakland. The complex sets aside 20 of the 79 units for First Place participants to live in permanently affordable housing with onsite services.

Other highlights

  • President George W. Bush signs legislation that includes federal funding for states that extend foster care eligibility beyond age 18 (Fostering Connections to Success Act)
  • First Place’s annual operating budget reaches $5.9 million, with 240 youth receiving housing, over 900 served in total.

July 2007


Sam Cobbs testifies before Congress in support of federal legislation that would extend foster care to age 21.

Other highlights

  • First Place opens our fourth program office in Solano County
  • The organization invests in a performance management database to help track outcomes and build evidence of effective practice
  • Terri shares her story in our 2007 Annual Report

July 2005


Sam Cobbs joins First Place as our second Executive Director. His 12 year term sees First Place through a period of significant and sustained growth.

Other highlights

  • 70 youth housed
  • First Place is awarded a four-year, $500,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • A third program office opens as we begin serving Contra Costa County

July 2004


First Place acts as a key partner in Alameda County’s implementation of THP-Plus housing services for former foster youth.

Other highlights

  • 50 Youth housed
  • Year 1 of a three-year expansion campaign comes to a successful conclusion
  • The Foster Youth Alliance becomes an independently operated organization with 18 member agencies.

July 2006


Recognizing that the mission is farther reaching than the “start-up” costs of housing, we drop “fund” from our name and officially rebrand as First Place for Youth.

Other highlights

  • More than 120 young people benefit from supportive housing
  • A $2 million dollar budget and a staff of 25 puts First Place in position to achieve the goals in the current strategic plan ahead of schedule

July 2003


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes our First Foundation program for its innovation and effectiveness, selecting it as one of 20 “best practice” programs in the country.

Other highlights

  • First Place opens our second program office in San Francisco
  • Supported Housing Program houses 45 youth annually
  • 100th youth moves into housing
  • First Place receives Manhattan Social Entrepreneurship Award
  • 17 members on staff

July 2002


Thirty young people are enrolled in First Place’s housing program, and approximately 300 receive skill-building assistance and resource referrals from First Place through the Emancipation Training Center and the Alameda County Foster Youth Alliance.

Other highlights

  • First Place’s annual fundraiser is held on June 6, and raises over $20,000, with major support from the Dickason Family Trust and Robert & Michelle Friend
  • Budget of $1.1 million, nearly doubling the previous year
  • First Place receives a three-year Ashoka Social Entrepreneurship Award

July 2001


First Place is a key participant in the development of California’s sustainable funding source for housing transition-age foster youth (Transitional Housing Placement-Plus).

Other highlights

  • First cohort of Supported Housing Program participants graduates from program
  • 20 youth housed annually thanks to a grant from Morrison and Foerster Foundation allowing the organization to double housing capacity
  • The Emancipation Training Center (later First Steps Center) opens in downtown Oakland
  • First Place receives University of California Peter Haas Community Service Award
  • Budget of $596,000

June 2000


First Place expands services to include the Emancipation Specialist Program (later First Foundation) to focus on helping foster youth complete high school on time through intensive case management support.

  • 10 youth housed
  • First Place is granted independent non-profit status by the IRS
  • We receive our first government grant from City of Oakland Fund for Children and Youth
  • With a budget of $255,000, First Place grows to 8 staff members

June 1999


Based on the results seen in the first year, First Place shifts from providing one-time micro-loan payment to cover move-in costs to a long-term subsidized supportive housing model, allowing youth to gradually take on the full costs of their rent at the end of a two year program. Kiana is the first youth to move into housing under the program.

Other highlights

  • Headquarters relocates from Berkeley to downtown Oakland
  • First Place launches a second program, the Alameda County Foster Youth Alliance
  • First Place receives grants from eight foundations, including the East Bay Community Fund, and our first government grant from the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth
  • Budget of $95,000 supports 3 staff members

June 1998


The First Place Fund for Youth launches on June 1. Initially the program provides a financial literacy course and one-time micro-loans to cover first and last months’ rent.

Other highlights

  • Gene Smolensky, former Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, hosts the first fundraiser for First Place in his backyard. 80 attendees raise $12,000.
  • The organization is housed in the adjunct faculty office at the Goldman School through the summer and then moves into Berkeley offices.
  • Four former foster kids — Michelle, Faryaz, Regina, and Anthony — enroll in First Place’s financial literacy course.
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