In 2009, when Evelyn was just 13 years old, she entered the foster care system.
When she aged out of the foster care system at 22, she felt alone and also had a then three-year-old son to take care of.
“It was a really tough time. I was still wrapping my head around how to live like an adult even though I was still just a kid myself. On top of that, I didn’t have the support that’s so crucial to making it here,” said Evelyn.
Evelyn did not give up hope though. She applied to massage therapist trade school and graduated with the goal of building her career. Even though Evelyn was working, she could not afford rent on her own and had to live with a friend. She needed additional support to find a place to call home for herself and her son. She applied for a Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) voucher and was awarded one.
“I gave it my all and I didn’t quit. I put in a lot of work and I promised myself I would do everything in my power to care for myself and provide for my son, even if that meant asking for help, which I really didn’t like to do,” said Evelyn.
After receiving her FYI voucher at the end of 2019, Evelyn began the apartment search on her own. But after no luck finding a place on her own, she was connected to WelcomeHomeOC, who helped narrow down her search. After finding the right space for her, WelcomeHomeOC also helped furnish it and assist with the security deposit payment. Evelyn was one of the first FYI voucher holders to be housed by the WelcomeHomeOC program.
“That was just the beginning to a better life and I used it as an opportunity to work towards something that represented me and something that I could finally call my own,” said Evelyn.
She just renewed her lease for another year and she’s thriving both as a mother and in her career.
“I’m so happy with where I am in my life, and I’m happy that every day I get to spend time with my son in this home and safe place that we’ve created for ourselves,” said Evelyn.
She said the entire experience has taught her “you cannot give up hope.”
To those who may be in a similar situation, her advice is, “Don’t ever give up. Remember that there is a bigger purpose to what you’re going through and there are people out there who want to help you.”
Doing More to End Homelessness
United Way remains focused on helping our most vulnerable neighbors find a place to call home through our United to End Homelessness initiative.