There is such joy, excitement, and freedom that comes with moving into your first apartment. It can also be frightening navigating new environments and experiences. These highs and lows are emphasized when working with the “Foster Youth to Independence” Voucher. The Foster Youth to Independence Voucher, or FYI voucher, is a new statewide program that provides housing choice vouchers to former foster youth who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
Foster parents are a vital resource to our community. They open up their hearts and homes to help youth who, for one reason or another, are unable to live with their biological family. They provide safety and stability to youth in need and truly are remarkable individuals. So what happens when there are not enough foster parents? In this piece, Emergency Shelter Program Supervisor, Tasha Farmer, explains what happens to foster youth who do not have a foster parent and the harsh reality they face when there are no homes available.
For the first time in a long time, Cooper was afraid. A lifelong struggle with drug addiction had finally resulted in his 8 year-old daughter, Traci, being removed from his care and placed into a foster home for her safety. He knew he needed treatment or he'd risk losing his daughter forever, or even his own life. Recognizing that he’d hit rock bottom, Cooper committed himself fully to getting and staying clean. He had finally accepted the harsh reality that he’d only get to watch his daughter grow up and be a part of her life if he were sober and safe.
Trevor never imagined calling his car “home.” But that’s exactly what happened to him, his son and daughter when living in their car became their only housing choice. Even though Trevor was employed full time, his rent had been raised twice in the last year alone. With no raise to help with rising costs, it was impossible for him to meet his landlord’s demands. Eviction became inevitable. But Trevor didn’t want to completely displace his children, moving them away from their school and friends, nor could he afford to leave his only source of income.
Homelessness in San Luis Obispo County is a very real problem. SLO County recently published a study (read it here) on the root causes of homelessness in SLO County, confirming it is one of the biggest issues impacting our community. The census, conducted in January 2017, found that there were 1,125 homeless persons in SLO County. Many state that the root cause is that there aren’t enough vacant rental units available. This report can be summed up in their statement that, “Insufficient supply of housing continues to be the biggest barrier to eliminating homelessness in the County.”
About ten years ago, my husband Doug introduced me to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), specifically the island of Tortola. Doug has spent half of his life going to the BVI and befriending many local people on Tortola. Our local friends who call this small island home are intelligent, wonderful, fun, passionate and so incredibly special to both of us. It is hard to explain how much we love the BVI and how much we love its people. We have always felt so fortunate to share a part of our lives with them.