Young Bobby was removed from his home, which was plagued with domestic violence and substance abuse. When his adoptive father passed away, his adoptive mother abandoned him at age 11. "I ended up homeless," Bobby recalls. "I remember walking through the streets, trying to find a shelter."
Melissa was 12 years old when her Mom passed away. "A year after my mom died, my Dad, who struggled with alcoholism, was incarcerated and that's how we ended up in the foster care system."
After Junior's dad died, his mom began dating a violent man. One night, the boyfriend started beating Junior. Thankfully, a neighbor called the police. The officer asked if Junior felt safe. "No I do not," he said. Junior was admitted to a foster youth group home.
In California, 65 percent of foster youth leave the system without a place to live. Forty-five percent are unemployed. Only 3 percent earn a college degree. As victims of abuse or neglect, these youth can't return to their families but they are not equipped to live on their own and have no one to help them transition to adulthood. For many, going to school and saving money may not be a priority over day-to-day survival.
Thankfully, all three found StarVista's Transitional Housing Placement Program for emancipated foster youth, ages 18-24. The program provides safe and stable housing, and caring counselors offer mental health counseling and basic life-skills training that helps youth learn to manage their finances, pursue their education, and obtain jobs. Youth who graduate from the program are assisted in finding secure housing.
"I haven't (believed) that the world cares. With StarVista, I realized there are people out there who care. It's family and that's what everybody needs," Bobby says. "Now, I have my own apartment, I'm working and going to school, and I want to make a difference in somebody else's life like StarVista made in my life."
Melissa says: "StarVista helped me with going to school, having a place to stay, having a job so I can support myself. I recently graduated from San Francisco State with a major in criminal justice. I'm working with transition age youth who came out of the same system I was raised in."
For Junior: "StarVista took care of me. They showed love. I feel like I have someone who is still looking out for me. Today, I have a home, I have a good job and I'm going to school. StarVista planted a seed and I'm growing."
In addition to housing for emancipated foster youth, StarVista offers 22 programs that serve more than 32,000 individuals annually throughout San Mateo County.
• Visit www.star-vista.org or call 650-591-9623 for more information. The address is 610 Elm St., Suite 212, San Carlos CA 94070.
• Go to tinyurl.com/Star-127 to see the full story.
StarVista benefits from donations to the Almanac's Holiday Fund.