California’s historic winter storm wreaked havoc across the state, including the family student housing of Elizabeth Clews, former foster youth and youth advocate at John Burton Advocates for Youth.
After a day of torrential rain, Elizabeth’s lights went off, leaving her in darkness together with her two small children. Hours passed and she waited… still no electricity.
After 12 hours, Elizabeth heard from administrators at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) that her electricity would be out for several days, leaving her and her young family without a way to cook food, take showers or use her computer for college courses. Classes had started just a few days prior and Elizabeth worried that without these essentials, her Spring term at UCSC would be off to a shaky start.
Fortunately, Elizabeth received assistance from JBAY’s Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund. Within hours of her request, she received $500 to help pay for a hotel room. “I was so scared. I had just paid by rent and didn’t have money for a hotel. I felt so thankful to get this help. It saved the day.”
As a former foster youth, Elizabeth didn’t have a large network of family to turn to in a time of need. For young adults in her position, the Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund has been a lifeline.
Schye Bell is with the Guardian Scholars Program at San Jose State University, which works with JBAY to distribute assistance to students with lived experience in foster care. She has seen first-hand the impact of the program. “JBAY has been a guiding light for the work I am so passionate about. Their team has been very welcoming and supportive, and I am thankful to have such a dedicated organization to collaborate with.”
Since the program launched in July 2022, the Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund has assisted 803 youth who were formerly in foster care or homeless. These young people are from every corner of California, and have used this flexible assistance to address an urgent need, as in the case of Elizabeth, or to make an opportunity possible.
JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley estimates the Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund will assist over 1,600 youth by the end of the fiscal year, June 30. “We all need help. I am glad that JBAY can offer assistance and help young people stay on track, so that a small hiccup doesn’t derail their hard-won progress.”