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Aged-Out Foster Youth Have New Place to Call Home

Seven former foster care youths are getting a place to live and a fresh start thanks to a new affordable housing program. Full Focus reporter Heather Hill has the story.

Seven former foster care youths are getting a place to live and a fresh start thanks to a new affordable housing program. Full Focus reporter Heather Hill has the story.

The transition can be tough for foster care kids when they turn 18 and "age out" of the foster system. Where do they go, and how do they make it on their own when they're earning minimum wage and have no rental or credit history? In San Diego, an average of 300 foster teens become legal adults each year and are no longer housed in the system. And national statistics show that without help, between 25 and 40 percent of these newly emancipated youths become homeless within a year of their 18th birthday. Now, a new residential program is helping to make the transition to independent living easier.

Twenty-year-old Joseph Martinez just moved into his new apartment a couple weeks ago. He grew up in foster care in San Diego. Martinez, his wife, and their young daughter will be spending the next two years here, in this newly renovated building in Normal Heights. San Diego Youth and Community Services purchased and upgraded the aging building with funding from the city's Redevelopment Agency and the Housing Commission. Walter Philips is the Executive Director of the organization. He says along with an affordable place to live, the program provides support services such as skills training and counseling.

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Philips: As you know, a lot of these young people haven't had the benefit of having a family to teach them how to live independently, how to even manage a check book, maintain a job. Sometimes because of their past they have some emotional problems or even problems in dealing with life in general. And we help them with living skills, with helping them make it through their jobs, helping with education.

Philips says a main goal of the program is to help foster youth to learn to be self-sufficient. Tenants are expected to pay about a third of their salary toward rent. The rest is subsidized by the county through home vouchers set aside for foster care youth. Residents are allowed to stay for two years, and Martinez says he will use the time to plan for the future.

Martinez: While I'm here, I'm just putting a lot of goals in place, saving finances, definitely working on a car. I'm definitely getting into real estate, so I'm looking to own a house within the next five years or so. So, it is definitely something I'm shooting for being that I have a family so young, so you definitely have to grow up that much faster.

With hundreds of youths aging out each year, the apartments are expected to be in high demand. San Diego Youth and Community Services hopes to be able to open more similar facilities in the future. For now, seven of the eight units are already full.