Giving Compass' Take:
- Gail Cornwall explains how housing insecurity stands in the way of college success for foster youth and how programs are removing this barrier.
- What role can you play in supporting housing stability for foster youth?
- Read about helping foster youth avoid homelessness.
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Citrus College was Kyshawna Johnson’s third attempt at higher education.
She first enrolled in a community college at age 18 while living with her grandmother, who was her foster care guardian. But the house was too chaotic to focus on studies, and without support, Johnson dropped out. She gave it another go at 19, but said when foster care support money stopped, she was forced to leave her grandmother’s house and college.
Her aunt and uncle offered her a room in 2016, and for nearly eight months, Johnson experienced a stable, calm home. She enrolled again and excelled at Citrus in Glendora. But her housing arrangement didn’t last. All her apartment applications were rejected, even though she could afford the rent from jobs at T.J. Maxx and a movie theater. She bounced from one friend’s couch to another. Then she lived in her car for six months, each night trying to find a parking spot under a streetlight.
“It was just scary,” she said. Her grades fell to Ds, and she thought, “College just may not be for me.”
But before dropping out a third time, Johnson connected with Jovenes Inc., an East Los Angeles nonprofit that helps homeless youth. The organization paid for her to stay in a room in a woman’s house. Finally, she had a place “just to be, and focus.”
For many former foster care students like Johnson — young adults with few resources to navigate independence — housing instability is a major impediment to completing a college degree. Nationally, reports indicate that 20 to 40 percent of youth aging out of foster care lack stable housing. Housing-insecure students take fewer classes, earn fewer credits and are more likely to leave college before graduating, research shows.
California has made significant moves to offer housing assistance to students with foster care experience, yet a comprehensive solution that identifies these students early and offers housing well-suited to their needs remains elusive.
Read the full article about housing insecurity for foster youth by Gail Cornwall at The Hechinger Report.