SAN ANTONIO – Children in foster care face many challenges, and if they're not reunited with their families or adopted by the time they turn 18, the road ahead doesn't get any easier. One major challenge many young adults face when they age out of foster care is finding stable housing.
A new pilot program started by a San Antonio nonprofit hopes to change that with a grant from the Nancy Smith Hurd Foundation, which will allow a handful of young adults to live in an apartment rent-free for a year while learning valuable life skills.
Elaine Andries Hartle is the co-founder of the THRU Project, a local nonprofit that matches mentors with young adults who are aging out of foster care. It's a sort of safety net that provides care after foster care.
"The youth in our program have significantly higher rates of getting their high school diploma, going on to higher education, of having employment and even delaying parenthood," Hartle said. "The one area we just can't seem to move the needle on is housing, stable housing. These kids come out of foster care with no permanent housing and there's very, very few programs in the city or the county that serve this demographic."
While teens who age out of foster care do get some financial benefits from the state to help cover living expenses, it's often not enough. If they can even afford an apartment, many former foster youths have trouble holding onto their housing. Many simply aren't prepared to deal with all the issues that surround transitioning from state care to independent living.
"No one taught them about the additional responsibilities and expense that comes along with that," Hartle said. "So the same mistakes you and I made with our first apartment, they're making the same mistakes, but there's no safety net for them. They can't call home for more money, and if they lose their apartment, there's no home to go to and they're literally on the streets."
A recent study on youth homelessness in Texas conducted by Texas Appleseed found 136 youths aged out of foster care in Bexar County last year, the second highest number in the state.
The new grant awarded to the THRU Project will allow at least 10 youths in the program to live in an apartment rent-free for a year when they age out of care. In exchange, they must attend classes to learn how to budget their money and hold down a job, so they can put money into a savings account.