HBF to build housing for at-risk youth leaving foster care

Foundation’s next project would give at-risk foster kids a place to call home

Jon Bell, for HBF

When Ken Cowdery wants to put the next possible project of the Home Builders Foundation in perspective, he has people ask themselves some questions: When you turned 18, could you have gone out and lived on your own? Did you have your first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit? A car? A job? Some savings to live on?


If you’re like most people, probably not. And if you happened to have been an at-risk kid just coming out of the foster care system, burdened by any number of unresolved personal or mental health issues, definitely not. There’s a good chance, too, that if you were among those at-risk foster kids, you could’ve ended up homeless.

But the HBF’s latest project could help keep at-risk kids who leave the foster care system when they turn 18 from ending up on the streets.

Known as New Meadows, the new project would include a 10-unit apartment building in north Portland for up to 18 at-risk youth, aged 18 to 24, who have come out of the foster care system. The building would also include an apartment for an on-site residential assistant.

“The idea is to try and capture these kids who are at-risk before they leave foster care so they don’t become homeless,” said Cowdery, executive director of the HBF.

What would make New Meadows even more unique, however, is its connection to Bridge Meadows, an intergenerational community in North Portland designed to bring together elderly persons and adoptive families with foster children. The idea would be to locate New Meadows close enough to Bridge Meadows that residents would interact, while at the same time giving the New Meadows kids a space of their own.

“I want these kids to feel like we all did,” said Derenda Schubert, executive director of Bridge Meadows. “Lots of us went on to college and had that natural progression in life. I want them to be able to get that like we did.”

The motivation behind New Meadows is not a new one. When he was executive director for New Avenues for Youth, Cowdery was well aware that at-risk foster care kids often ended up on the streets. Schubert, too, had heard plenty about it while working for Trillium Family Services. Both had known each other in their former roles, so when the idea for New Meadows came up, it seemed like the right fit.

“It’s interesting to see how the Home Builders Foundation is serving as a conduit for these kinds of projects now,” Cowdery said, noting that New Avenues for Youth will provide social services at New Meadows.

Just days after presenting the initial idea to the foundation board, Cowdery said Renaissance Homes volunteered to take on the role of builder captain.

“It’s just nice to do something really cool for people in the city we’ve worked in for 29 years,” said Randy Sebastian, president of Renaissance Homes. “I think the concept of Bridge Meadows is a neat deal for women and children and elders, so I’m excited to be a part of New Meadows.”

Although the New Meadows vision has been established, the logistics are still uncertain. The HBF and Bridge Meadows have been talking with PGE about a piece of land the utility owns very close to Bridge Meadows. There’s also planning to finalize, costs to estimat and a possible capital campaign to get ready for. None of that has Cowdery or Schubert daunted at all, especially considering what’s at stake.

“It’s a really hard life for these kids and they did nothing to deserve it,” Schubert said. “This will be a place they can live until they get their feet under them. And when they do and they move out into their own place, that will be a success.”