“I was starting college at Sacramento State and needed help identifying a safe, reasonable housing placement option that wasn’t going to fall apart. Housing navigation could have helped me with this. While I waited for transitional housing to become available for two months, I was homeless. I failed my summer courses, and my mental health was bad.”
Ajanique Dunlap was sharing her story of homelessness while in foster care with the Assembly Committee on Housing & Community Development on March 15. A Youth Advocate for John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY), Ajanique was speaking in support of Assembly Bill 413: “Addressing Foster Youth Homelessness”.
AB 413, introduced by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-District 19), would establish permanent funding for programs helping current and former foster youth to secure stable housing, while also providing training for social workers to help foster youth navigate the housing system. The proposed law would also provide a housing supplement for foster youth in counties with the highest rental costs. AB 413 is sponsored by JBAY and supported by 120 other organizations.
“California has taken great strides to address the alarming rates of homelessness experienced by foster youth,” Simone Tureck Lee, JBAY’s director of housing and health, told the hearing. “However, there is still work to do. Nearly one in five youth experience homelessness while in foster care between ages 19 and 21, and one in four experience homelessness after transitioning out of care between 21 and 23.”
COVID-19 has only worsened the problem for foster youth, highlighting the need for long-term housing solutions. According to a survey last July, 79% of current foster youth age 18-21 who were working at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis either lost their jobs or experienced a reduction in hours.
Ajanique was fortunate to get into a transitional housing program right when COVID hit. “When I was laid off due to COVID from my campus job, the program was really supportive—they waived my portion of the rent, and they also helped me apply for unemployment insurance.”
As she told the committee, passing AB 413 into law would help provide foster youth with a safe route to a more stable future: “I’m not going to need help forever, but right now the assistance I receive is a very important and critical bridge to me becoming independent.”
The Assembly committee was very receptive to Ajanique’s message. AB413 was passed out of committee unanimously with a bipartisan vote of 8-0.
For more information on Assembly Bill 413 and how to support it, visit: https://www.jbaforyouth.org/ab413.