April 2, 2024

JBAY Continues its Campaign to Preserve Housing for Foster Youth

JBAY Continues its Campaign to Preserve Housing for Foster Youth

It’s  April and for John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY), that means budget season.

JBAY continues its fight to protect two critical housing programs for foster youth in the 2024-25 state budget. At each step of the way, JBAY’s Youth Advocates have played a critical role,  explaining how the elimination of these important programs will directly impact the lives of young people. 

On April 3rd, JBAY Youth Advocate Wednesday Pope was invited to provide testimony to an Assembly Budget Subcommittee on the proposed eliminations. Wednesday was in foster care and homeless because her foster care payment wasn’t enough to rent an apartment. Last year, JBAY successfully advocated for a supplemental payment for foster youth in this situation, which is being proposed for elimination in the 2024-25 state budget. 

According to Wednesday, “I lived in my car for a whole year while in foster care. I wish I could say this was a rare occurrence, but many of the other foster youth I knew were also facing this reality.”

Hard truths like this are motivating JBAY’s Director of Housing and Health Simone Tureck Lee. who leads the campaign to protect these programs. This includes convening a coalition of 103 organizations every other week to strategize what is needed to prevent these budget cuts.  

According to Tureck Lee, the proposed elimination of the programs was discouraging, but it has also been heartening to see people from around the state rally to protect them.

“We’ve had non-profit organizations across California speaking out about the importance of these programs, together with the youth they serve. Without their involvement, JBAY would not be making the progress that we are. We’re very fortunate to have such a strong statewide coalition.”

 In addition to strong coalition partners, state elected officials have made it clear they do not support eliminating these programs. Assemblymember Phil Ting wrote a letter to the Assembly Budget Subcommittee making the case to preserve these programs. It was signed by 24 of his colleagues in the California State Assembly.

 According to JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley, this is the kind of leadership required to protect programs for foster youth. “It is a tough year for the state budget, no question about it. The fact that a third of the California State Assembly stands firmly committed to preserving these programs speaks very highly of California’s commitment to ensuring they make a safe supported transition from foster care.”

 Key budget committee hearings are being held in April and from there,  negotiations will continue into May. The final decision on whether these two programs will be eliminated or not will be determined by mid-June. The 2024-25 state budget goes into effect on July 1st.

No one knows better than JBAY Youth Advocate Wednesday how high the stakes are if we don’t succeed, “We simply cannot continue to offer the promise of foster care to provide safety and a better home from which we were removed, and then inadequately fund that promise.”