A Place of Their Own

Giving young adults aging out foster care a stable place to start

The odds are stacked against youth who are transitioning out of foster care. At 18, foster kids “age out” of most assistance, including housing, food, and educational support, yet lack resources that other teens usually take for granted, like a family to assist with big purchases or a parent to co-sign for an apartment. The statistics for foster youth transitioning into adulthood are grim: about one-third of these youth experience homelessness before they reach 30.

Local nonprofit Unity Care had a solution: the organization owned a vacant five-bedroom house in south San Jose that was earmarked for foster youth 18 to 21, but the charity couldn’t find the funding to remedy the home’s laundry list of serious problems. Mold had spread throughout the kitchen and the back deck was so rotten that there was no safe way to exit to the backyard. Flooring was missing, leaving damaged subfloor exposed, and the bathrooms were inoperable.

HIF knew that bringing this house online would change lives, so that’s exactly what it set out to do. With Oneil Davidson and Heather Wallace from Alliance Residential at the helm as volunteer project leaders, HIF began recruiting help from local companies to transform the home. With such a worthy cause, the supporters poured in. Donors included Appliance Parts Distributors, Alliance Residential, AWHS, Cambridge Management Company, CORT Furniture Rental, Empire Painting & Construction, Floormasters, Inc., Gachina Landscape Management Services, HD Supply, International Building Investment, Inc., Northstar Glass & Windows, Swenson Development & Construction, and Towne Tile & Stone.

To ensure that the house was move-in ready, HIF also enlisted the help of Wells Fargo, a three-time Corporate Champion. On a cloudless day last October, Wells Fargo employees spent a combined total of 110 hours painting, landscaping, and demolitioning the rotten deck, which was later replaced by a maintenance-free concrete pad.

After the $53,000 worth of work was complete, the CEO of Unity Care declared the house the “HIF Home” and the first foster youth resident moved in nearly immediately. After being homeless and sleeping in a local hospital’s emergency room, the teen was thrilled to finally have a stable place to start his next chapter.