For most teens, your 18th birthday is a day to celebrate your new freedoms, to grow into adulthood, and pave the way for a bright future, but to kids aging out of the foster care system, it is a day mostly filled with dread.
Over 50,000 kids are in the foster system each year in California, alone. While some states cut government foster assistance off at the age of 18, California offers some resources up until the age of 21, but it isn’t enough to keep these young adults out of homelessness or incarceration. Very few programs offer help to this age group leaving them unprepared for adulthood and lacking the tools and means to get on their own two feet.
That’s where Jacaranda Housing comes in. Ali Bodager was working in skid row in 2010 at an after school program where she watched countless teens age out of the program and left without real footing in the world. “I felt the need to serve the young adults who were left to their own devices to figure out life. I wanted to help them before they became homeless,” said Bodager, who began working on Jacaranda Housing in 2020.
The pandemic gave time for Bodager to research and plan out the best way to bring services to underprivileged young adults and the statistics she found shocked her. According to an LA homeless count done in 2020, there were over 4,600 homeless adults between the ages of 18 and 24. She also found that 46% of foster youth never graduate from high school, and only 3% ever obtain a college degree. In 2018, 65% of youth aged out of the system without any legal connection to family or care, leaving them to figure out life on their own.
In November of 2022, Jacaranda Housing opened their doors after signing the lease to a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom home in Burbank. The open house event took place on November 19th and showed guests and Burbank city council members the future of Jacaranda’s housing program and what a day in the life of a woman in the program would look like.
Jacaranda Housing’s Residential Program will consist of a two year immersive program for up to six women between the ages of 18-24, who will live in the the home, learn essential life skills, receive assistance obtaining a job, assistance going back to school, and provided with mentors and regular therapy. “Jacaranda Housing’s Residential Program will provide a stable living situation for young women who are trying to figure out how to do life on their own,”said Bodager. “Our house manager will create an individualized 2-year plan for each of the young women living in our home. This house will not only provide a roof over their heads, it will also provide a sense of belonging and security for the two years they are in our program.”
Life skills classes will include resume building, interview skills, budgeting, cooking, cleaning, self-defense and more. The goal at the end of the program is to leave the young women with a full-time job, some schooling under their belt, six months of savings, and the appropriate life skills to give them the confidence to go out into the world as thriving adults. “I want there to be a place of belonging for these young women to learn how to truly thrive, not just survive,” added Bodager.
The program is still currently in the process of fundraising and is in need of $300,000 to be able to open their doors in the spring of 2023. Jacaranda Housing is hosting a Jazz Brunch, open to the public, on January 21st from 10:00AM to 1:00PM at All Souls Church in Burbank to help raise money to support the Residential Program. They are also looking for volunteers to help teach or assist with their life skills classes, and if interested you can email email@example.com.
In the meantime, Jacaranda Housing is busy with another program that they work on in partnership with Village Family Services and The Landing. The Landing is a 38-bed transitional housing program for young men and women in Burbank who have been previously homeless. Jacaranda provides the young adults with birthday gifts for the residents since most don’t have anyone to celebrate with. They also provide handwritten birthday cards and cupcakes to make them feel cared for on their special day, as well as ongoing life skills classes. Bodager hopes to serve nearly 60 adults each year in her program, and is passionate about spreading the word about transitional youth and how to help in our Burbank community. For more information visit jacarandahousing.org.