By: Heather Tijerina

“Peace- that was the other name for home.”- Kathleen Norris

As she put the key in the door for the first time, she looked down and smiled at the brand-new door mat, which reads “It’s good to be home.” A few weeks ago, Noni could not fully enjoy the nearing celebrations surrounding her college graduation because she was preoccupied with the fear that she was about to be homeless. But now, as she stepped through the doorway to her brand-new apartment, Noni was finally able to breathe in peace, knowing she would not have to worry about where she would lay her head.

When youth age out of foster care, homelessness is a very real likelihood. About 25% of foster youth who age out of foster care will become homeless within 4 years, most much sooner than that. But the dismal statistics don’t stop there. Even with resources available to help former foster youth access a college education, it is difficult for many to find housing, pay for books, afford food while in college, and all the other expenses that come with the college experience. Only about 3% of former foster youth graduate from college. So, most youth exit foster care with many more question marks than answers. But what if we could provide answers? What if we could erase the question marks…

In 2024, Foster Angels of South Texas aimed to be a part of the solution. Though we cannot tackle the national numbers, we believe that we can help provide support, one youth at a time. Our Housing Pilot was launched with the goal of leasing an apartment unit to house one foster youth at a time for 6-9 months while the youth works on creating short-term and long-term goals for housing and stability. We recognize it is often difficult for former foster youth to focus on housing, when they are preoccupied with mental health struggles, healing from past trauma, and even food instability. We are offering a solution to short-term housing, so the youth is able to create a plan for success, with our help and support.

This is not our first interaction with Noni. She left foster care, determined to enter college and work hard towards her degree. In 2023, she applied for, and was awarded, our Soaring Scholars scholarship. Throughout her college career, she was an exemplary student and continued to demonstrate that she was determined to rise above the statistics and challenges, and even the fears. Don’t misunderstand- it was not an absence of fear. Rather, it was a voice of courage in her head that spoke louder than the fear, that helped Noni accomplish her dream of walking the stage at her college graduation. She is a shining star and example of what it means to beat the odds.

She, like so many others, is not without new challenges though, as she continues to work towards building her future. The questions of “what now” and “how” plague her as she decides how to write this next chapter. The good news is, she isn’t alone; we are here to support her and cheer her on.

As each of us cross our threshold into our own homes today, remember the welcome mat at the Foster Angels Housing Pilot; remind yourself that “it’s good to be home.” And then remind yourself that it feels even better when we help others feel good and safe to be home as well.

You can learn more about our housing-pilot program HERE.