I’m 20 years old and I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life. I moved around a lot even before I was in the foster care system, so that’s just what I’m used to. I entered the foster care system when I was 11 or 12.
My mom got back guardianship rights to me just before my 18th birthday. I know it was important to her—no parent wants their child taken from them—and she worked hard to do what the County said she needed to do to regain custody. I would say it was detrimental to me because I lost resources I would have had as an emancipated youth after 18, like transitional housing and funding for school.
My mom and I have a wonderful relationship, but we can’t live together. So reunifying with my mom and having that not work out meant I was homeless on my 18th birthday.
I’m a pretty independent person and I’d already started college, and had a full-time job. So when things didn’t work out with my mom, I moved into an apartment with my two kids. Then I lost the job and then I lost the apartment. It was hard to have to overcome so many obstacles at 18.
The last couple of years have been like a roller coaster. The highs and lows are starting to level out as I get used to adult life. I’m learning my lessons with every glitch that comes along. I’m still a full-time student and I have a full-time job with a nonprofit agency, helping foster youth.
Housing remains my biggest challenge. I recently became eligible for the City of Alameda rental assistance program, called Family Unification Program. It’s an 18-month program where, if you do all the things you’re supposed to, you become eligible for Section 8 housing. When I got in I thought I won the lottery. I’ve been looking for a home for three months and still haven’t found anything - no one wants to rent to me. I tell them I’m a responsible tenant, that I meet all their criteria, but it’s always no.
I’ve been homeless a few times since I turned 18. Currently, I’m living in Vallejo with relatives. That’s hard with two kids. Every morning I get up early to take the kids to child care in Fremont, than I go to work in Oakland, then I pick up the kids in Fremont, and then I go to our place in Vallejo. And I’m going to school. I drive about 200 miles a day.
I’ve been taking my oldest to the same child care in Fremont since she was 3 months old and she’s about to graduate from pre-school. I don’t want to move her because she needs that stability. The subsidized child care is so important—I couldn’t work without it and would need even more government assistance; but, Fremont is too expensive to live, so the drive is what I have to do. I have a lot of people in my life who care about me, but the financial burdens make it hard. I feel like I take five steps forward and three steps back living my life like this. I feel like if I could just make it past college and child care, I wouldn’t need help after that.
For me, a perfect world would be child care for my son close to work, a nice school for my daughter, with a full-day program , and somebody in Alameda to take a chance on me and see I can be a responsible tenant.
I’m looking for a stepping stone, not a crutch. I don’t want help the rest of my life, just until I graduate college. I don’t see myself depending on government assistance because, quite frankly, I don’t want to deal with that. That’s a full-time job in itself, just asking for help.