On Tuesday night, Gail Floyd and her two-year-old son moved out of a West Philadelphia homeless shelter to spend the night on the floor of their new two-bedroom apartment.
Furniture is on the way, but at 19, she was too excited about having a place of her own to wait for it.
"This is my kitchen," said Floyd, who already has stocked it with boxes of cereal and bread.
She and her son became the first residents of a new six-family apartment house dedicated this afternoon by the People's Emergency Center.
The Bernice Elza Homes in the West Powelton section will cater to hard-to-place homeless youth with children, said Gloria Guard, president of the non-profit PEC, which provides shelter and service to homeless families.
"The demand for this is tremendous," Guard said. "We're seeing more young women in our shelters, and more with babies."
Many have aged out of the city's foster-care system, and find themselves on their own without parenting skills and job training.
Of the 100 or so families in the agency's shelters, the average age of the mothers is about 20 - down from 30 a decade ago.
Brandey Davis, a case manager, said many cycled through shelters when they were children. "Most come from young mothers, broken households or foster care," she said.
Floyd spent the last decade bouncing from her drug-addict mother to relatives. Most recently, she lived with her grandmother, and then with a girlfriend, while looking for a room to rent. Last March, she moved with her son to the PEC-run family shelter in West Philadelphia.
"It's not easy," said Floyd, who is taking classes to earn the equivalent of a high school diploma, before starting job training through PEC.
Until she gets a job, she will have only her electric bill to pay. The apartment rent will be covered by a Section 8 subsidy through the Philadelphia Housing Authority. The families that live there will also get supportive services.
The apartments cost $1.2 million to build.
The project began as a collaboration between PEC and the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, which had gotten a federal HUD grant to partner with a community group and develop innovative affordable housing.
Students had input in energy-saving concepts as well as the building's design, said Eugenie Birch, co-director of the Penn Institute for Urban Research.
About half the construction funding came from the city's Office of Housing and Community Development, with additional funds from HUD, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh, TD Bank, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase Bank and State Farm Insurance.
Melissa Blount, vice president of community development for TD Bank, said the bank's foundation wanted to support the project because of its focus on youth who age out of foster care.
"No one else," she said, "was addressing this need."