A Fresh Start
Truly, the transition between childhood and adulthood happens in the blink of an eye, as the clock strikes, marking an 18th birthday. For struggling youth, this tick of the minute hand can signal the end of vital services that have served to protect and nourish them throughout their childhood; now unavailable because they are considered an 18-year-old adult. It can be the difference between having a roof over their head and facing homelessness upon graduation or while still in high school, a time that already serves as a daunting transition for young adults planning for their future.
When it comes to homelessness in children and young adults, it is hard to get the numbers exact due to the harsh realities they face. Some are moving from place-to-place to hide from a dangerous home life and others simply age out of the foster care system, unable to support themselves when they turn 18.
In her life, one local teen faced one of those realities, experiencing loss after loss and acting out to deflect from her pain. After years without a stable home and past trauma, she struggled daily as she tried to go to school while couch-surfing between friends’ homes. She knew it was time to ask for help. For her, that came in the form of Bebe Johnson, The NEST Empowerment Center Coordinator, who was able to connect her with the Home Base program at Texas Baptist Children’s Home (TBCH), just in time for her 18th birthday.
The Home Base program provides small, efficiency apartments for youth aging out of foster care or facing homelessness. Home for up to 14 young adults at a time, it’s a safe haven while youth further their education through college, vocational training or certification programs, or while working in the field toward a career. They are provided services such as counseling, budgeting, job readiness, academic goal-setting and mentoring, and have access to the commissary and additional resources to ensure success.
Johnson, who works closely with Richarte High School students, first learned of the Home Base program through TBCH’s Hope Program Director, who provided group sessions twice monthly this past year to NEST program students. These important community partnerships laid the groundwork for the eventual connections between Richarte students and the Home Base program.
Rob Dyer, principal at Richarte High School in Georgetown, has seen the program’s success firsthand through some of his students, many of who transform before his eyes thanks to the stability and dignity of the housing and services that TBCH Home Base provides.
“One student came to me and said, ‘I have nowhere to go. I don’t know what to do,’” recalls Dyer. “Then we got her connected with the TBCH Home Base program and she has been so happy; I tell you, she’s been a different person. They do way more than provide a home. They’re helping her with applying to college. They’re helping her get her start.”
The fresh start for young adults is possible because of the cooperation TBCH enjoys with other area providers such as The Georgetown Project, a nonprofit focused on connecting Georgetown children and youth to vital services through its programs such as The NEST Empowerment Center.
Leslie Janca, CEO of The Georgetown Project, affirms the TBCH Home Base program is proving to be a vital lifeline for students they serve at The NEST who are aging out of other youth programs. “We’re just so incredibly excited to have a relationship with TBCH and for the warm handoff within that safe, amazing place for next steps for those kids who don’t have anything in place after they graduate,” shares Janca.
These Home Base program participants currently living on the TBCH campus are taking advantage of all of the opportunities for healing and growth, thanks to relationships formed with their case managers and counselors. One young lady is now even planning to go to college after recently graduating from Richarte High School to work toward a degree in Social Work to help other children and families (with the hope of working at TBCH someday).
“I survived,” she declares. “I survived loss, I survived grief, and I really survived finding myself. Everything you go through is either meant to happen or meant to change you. I learned that there is no giving up. If you really want to change, you can change.”
While change doesn’t happen overnight, the transition from homeless to a TBCH Home Base resident is a profound step on that journey. TBCH is able to be the support system for youth of all ages, including this critical shift into adulthood. At a time where many children have the guidance of their parents and security in what is to come, not all teens have someone to guide them through life after high school. And in the case of teens like the young lady mentioned and countless other students—even others at Richarte High School—they don’t even know where they are going to sleep, let alone how to prioritize saving for their college or housing. That’s where TBCH steps in, providing some of the most basic needs so these newly-minted young adults can focus on their future.
“I feel like this is a really safe, nurturing, caring environment that kids have not had before,” adds Dyer. “This is life-changing for kids. I want to see us continue to keep working with TBCH; I hope they’re able to grow the Home Base program.”
The TBCH Hope Program through which several young adults from Georgetown were referred to Home Base benefits from Georgetown Health Foundation’s generous provision of space in its Community Resource Center.