On July 1st over 2,000 former foster youth in California received some unexpected, good news: they’re eligible for an extra 12 months of safe, affordable housing. That’s thanks to the successful advocacy of John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY).
JBAY successfully advocated to extend the length of the state’s transitional housing program from 24 to 36 months with long-time foster youth champion Assemblymember Phil Ting. The program extension was part of a comprehensive package of housing reforms for former foster youth. Other important changes include increasing funding to serve an additional 800 former foster youth annually and increasing state investment in housing navigation, which is critical to help youth locate, secure and maintain housing in today’s competitive housing market.
JBAY Youth Advocate and former foster youth Emmerald Evans advocated for the policy change and understands first-hand the extra challenges foster youth face as young adults. “When you’re in foster care, you’re already behind the average youth. You’re dealing with trauma, lack of family support, and often mental health issues. The extra year of housing will ease the transition and help foster youth be secure in their independence.”
In addition to reducing homelessness, providing an extra year of housing also helps the education and employment prospects of youth, according to Jane Schroeder, Chief Policy & Strategy Officer at First Place for Youth, one of California’s largest transitional housing providers. “We’ve analyzed years of our program data and learned that the amount of time spent in program is a significant factor driving education and employment outcomes, specifically around living wage attainment.”
JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley co-founded First Place for Youth, the state’s first transitional housing program for former foster youth in California prior to joining JBAY. For her, this extension is particularly meaningful. “I founded First Place to help foster youth make a safe, supported transition from foster care and knowing that every foster youth across California now can be safe and secure for another 12 months means the world to me. We’ve come a long way.”
With this item included in the budget, the work now turns to implementation, which will be led by Housing and Health Director Simone Tureck Lee. This includes disseminating information about the policy change to county child welfare agencies and housing providers as well as hosting a web seminar in August to review the changes in detail.
“We’ve made the policy change, and now we have to follow through to change the practice,” said Lemley. “At JBAY, we’ll keep pressing until the new state investment results in safe, affordable housing that is making a meaningful difference for young people.”