A few years back, I remember driving down the road processing a meeting I was a part of earlier in the week and I thought, “We can provide housing for young adults aging out of foster care.” The next minute I was on the phone with our board Vice Chairman, Jack, sharing with him my thoughts and dreams, hearing him grab hold of the vision, and commit to linking arms to make it happen. Fast forward two years, lots of conversations, lots of failed housing options, new partnerships, not really knowing what in the world we were getting into, and there we were; standing outside two units welcoming the first 4 young men that would be part of the launch of Foster Arizona Housing Project.
Looking back, I can honestly say we really did not know what we were taking on. What we knew was young adults were going homeless because of a lack of housing supports and we were confident in our ability to learn as we go. And, learn we did. We learned that case management is not enough to motivate. We learned that skills and growth happen best when someone is cheering you on, getting their hands dirty with you, and sometimes giving you a swift kick in the behind when you have gone off course. We have adjusted the measure of success and the length of time available to participants. We grew our Participant Agreement from two pages to nine. We learned that not everyone is ready to succeed and we cannot want something for them if they do not first want it for themselves. We have reached out for help to learn more about bedbugs, helping youth maneuver through finding services related to trauma, food boxes, job opportunities, etc.
Through all the challenges and successes, we have pushed forward because of the support of the community, commitment of the mentors, passion of the leaders, and the growth we have seen in the participants. The houses were furnished because of you. They were painted and made move in ready because you gave your time. Mentors were available for every young adult because you stepped up. Young adults were given welcome packs that included toiletries, gift cards, sheets, blankets, towels, and bus passes because you wanted them to succeed. We expanded from 4 beds, to 6 beds, to 10 beds, and now have 22 beds in process because, just like Jack, you committed to linking arms to make it happen. As we celebrate one year in housing, we celebrate the fourteen young adults who have had a safe place to rest their heads and we celebrate the joint community effort that made it possible. We celebrate those who graduated from our program, those who graduated high school, those who learned to drive, those who held down a job, those who took their first semester of school, and those who looked fear in the face and took a step anyway. We look forward to what this next year will bring because we know we are in this together and each of the young adults’ lives matter greatly to our community.
Founder/CEO Foster Arizona