Foster care youth struggle to find housing after aging out of system
KALAMAZOO, Mich. —
Life after foster care can be difficult for some young people, including finding affordable housing and steady income.
Five 21-year-olds, who asked not to be identified, live in a small apartment together due to their aging out of the foster care system at the age of 18.
“Some of the parents just want the money, so when we ask for help we don’t get it. And that leaves us to where we don’t know where to go, we don’t have any resources. We’re too young to know that, we weren’t taught it,” said one of the tenants.
“It’s hard looking for a job when you’re homeless,” said another.
They say they’ve slept under bridges, shelters and in their cars. For them, finding housing is proving to be more difficult than they thought.
“It’s very hard. It’s a long process. Sometimes it takes years to get it even for subsidized housing. For us kids, younger,” said a tenant.
Marla Schwartz, a volunteer with Helping Foster Care Youth, has been emailing state leaders and area organizations to see what resources are available for the young men, but says she's running into several loopholes.
“I do think we do need more section eight subsidized housing. It’s ridiculous, the list when you call and they want to put you on the list. I was told anywhere from months, to a year or two years. Where do they live in the meantime?” Schwartz said.
Fostering Success Michigan through Western Michigan University may help in their search.
It offers resources to academics, housing and jobs for youth ages 12 to 25 with foster care experience.
Schwartz hopes the program could help the two young men and many others like them find success after a system she says has failed them.
“This is America. We need to take care of our own before we take care of anything else. They’re out there in the streets, they’re homeless, they’re hungry,” Schwartz said.