James was a student in community college, struggling to turn his life around after a childhood spent in foster care. He was living in a horse stable in Orange County with his biological father, surrounded by drugs and prostitution. He was making good progress despite this and had found a job and was saving up to move. Then COVID-19 struck and he found himself unemployed and trapped in this unhealthy and unsafe environment.
Unfortunately, James’ story is not unique. As school and business closures take their toll, foster youth enrolled in college are reporting severe income loss resulting in food and housing insecurity and increased likelihood that they will disenroll from school. Recognizing the urgency of this need, JBAY partnered with the nonprofit Together We Rise to create the California College Pathways (CCP) Rapid Response Program, which is designed to stave off an immediate crisis while simultaneously setting foster youth on a path to long-term stability so that they can stay on track with their educational goals.
To date, over 200 students from 70 different campuses across the state have received immediate financial support paired with case management services. This has included support with finding housing, accessing benefits programs, referrals to mental health services, and funds to address emergency food needs. James was referred by his college to the program, which was able to put him up in a hotel for two months. James was able to use this time to find new employment and saved up money. He is now moving into safe housing and will continue working while he takes summer classes and prepares for fall enrollment.
By helping James and other foster youth, JBAY’s program not only keeps these youth on the path to college completion, it permanently transforms the trajectory of their lives.