Imagine spending a better part of your youth living in foster homes and/or group homes, then suddenly turning 18 and having either transitional housing, couch surfing or living on the streets as your only option while you wait for other available housing. Imagine having a mental illness on top of all that. Many of these youth are unable to return to their families of origin and are not allowed to remain in their foster placements. And while there are other housing options available, they are time-limited, space is limited and they often have to share with other foster youth. Imagine having to share an apartment with another foster youth that you don’t know or don’t get along with. Well, now there is another option. Starting the first week of April, transitional age (18-25 years) foster and homeless youth began moving into their new apartments on West Columbus. After several years of planning and development, in partnership with the Housing Authority of Kern County and Golden Empire Affordable Housing Inc., West Columbus is finally open. There are 20 one-bedroom apartments (not studios), fully furnished and ready to go. There are already approximately 10 youth living there now. As a therapist with the Transitional Age Youth (TAY) team, the relief in the youth’s eyes as they move in is palpable. Many of them have told me they feel so much better being on their own and having their own space. Not only do the youth have their own place, but they also get the support of the TAY team to help them be successful as they journey towards independence. The benefits include on-site support from Covenant Community services to help the youth connect with the community and receive mentorship (the Covenant mentor was a former foster youth herself), on-site support from TAY staff where they can receive therapy and case management right outside their door at our on-site office. The youth are allowed to live there up to the age of 25, plenty of time to go to college, find a job, establish a career and become fully independent. The youth can also have spouse or significant others live with them as well as their children. Finally, the apartments are a drug/alcohol-free zone and many of the youth find that to be a relief. One youth noted “I don’t have to worry about drugs, gangs and violence now”. The TAY team will also work with youth who are not sober to help them recover so they to have an opportunity to move in. For some youth, this has been a great motivator to get clean. For information on how to apply, contact Brenda Story at 868-6465.
By Stacey Tisler, ASW, Mental Health Therapist, TAY Team