A total of 56 vulnerable foster youth have found housing with the help of Fostering Youth Independence since the local nonprofit’s founding in 2017. The largest foster support organization in Santa Clarita, FYI has supported these dozens of young adults who have aged out of the L.A. County foster system without being adopted or reunited with their birth families, with one of their most critical needs.
“Foster youth need the safety and security of a home in order to take the next steps toward developing the skills they need to become independent adults,” Carolyn Olsen, FYI’s executive director and co-founder, said in a prepared statement. “Without the stability of a place to live, these youth are at risk of not being able to break the cycle of hopelessness and reach their potential. We’re proud that since our founding in 2017, FYI has been able to secure housing for 56 local foster youth.”
Olsen added that finding housing is just one of the ways FYI equips local foster youth for success in school and life. “We also provide many vital resources to help these youth including a dedicated community of support, emergency financial assistance, academic support and tutoring, and the guidance and encouragement they need to complete a college education or vocational training.”
The story of a foster youth named Adam — whose named was changed in the FYI statement to protect his privacy — is an example of FYI’s effort to provide housing for local foster youth, who would otherwise find themselves homeless and hopeless.
On his daily neighborhood walk, Santa Clarita resident Craig (whose name was also changed in the FYI release for privacy purposes) often noticed a man sleeping in the park in the middle of the day. He then started to see the man sleeping at a table on the outdoor patio of a local coffee shop. At first, he couldn’t guess the man’s age, because he wore a hoodie and kept his head covered.
Craig began purchasing food for the man, asking the coffee shop staff to give it to him without revealing its source. One day, the man saw Craig purchasing the food and approached him to thank him. Craig realized that the man, Adam, was young. After that, Craig would talk to Adam whenever he saw him and slowly learned his story.
Craig learned that Adam was a 23-year-old former foster youth who was attending a California State University when his money ran out. He was evicted from the dorm and went to live with an aunt in Santa Clarita. When his aunt decided she no longer wanted a houseguest, Adam moved into an apartment with a roommate, but he couldn’t afford the rent. Forced to leave once again, Adam found himself homeless.
Although he had a full-time job working at a gas station convenience store, he couldn’t afford housing. He would work at night and then sleep at the park or the coffee shop during the day. Craig contacted one of the pastors at his church to find out if he knew of any resources for Adam. The pastor told Craig about FYI and gave him the number of FYI’s program director, Gina.
As soon as Gina got the call from Craig, she tried to reach Adam at the number he provided, but there was no response. Her attempts to connect with him were unsuccessful until one day, Craig called Gina while he was at the coffee shop with Adam. Gina raced over to meet them. She learned that Adam’s cell service had been disconnected, and he could only be reached when he was near free WiFi.
Gina told Adam that, when he was ready, FYI would send a ride for him so he could come to the office for an intake. Arrangements were made, and Adam came to the office and joined the FYI community. FYI immediately paid for his cell service to be reinstated so they could maintain contact with him. During the intake meeting, Adam shared that his biggest challenge was constant hopelessness. FYI’s intake form asks youth what kind of life they would like to attain.
Adam answered, “My ideal life would be the exact opposite of the one I am currently living.”
FYI reached out to the local homeless shelter, Bridge to Home, and arranged for Adam to stay there until a more permanent solution could be found. When asked why Adam had not utilized the shelter before, he said that without a working phone, he couldn’t find the resources he needed. Adam started coming to the FYI office regularly, where they helped him get all the resources he needed, including MediCal, a bus pass, a bike and college financial aid. FYI helped him obtain his birth certificate and his college transcripts, which showed he had already completed 45 units toward a bachelor’s degree.
He enrolled at College of the Canyons and plugged right into the FYI community, regularly attending The Study Place, coming to the “Elfmas” holiday party, and participating in Money Matters classes. Meanwhile, Craig completed Ally training and officially became Adam’s Ally, guiding and encouraging him and researching potential resources for Adam.
Last month, Adam moved into his permanent home. He is now renting a room at one of the two houses owned by a generous local couple who rent their homes exclusively to FYI youth at a rate they can afford. Adam is not homeless anymore.
Additional information about Fostering Youth Independence, the services it provides to foster youth, and how to become involved, can be found at www.fyifosteryouth.org.