For Good: Public-private partnership provides housing for former foster care youth

Teens who reach 18 and “age out” of the foster care system often have to confront reality quickly when they find themselves homeless.

Now thanks to a new partnership with Pinellas County, the Pinellas County Housing Authority and Ready for Life, the young men can find a safe, stable and affordable place to call home while they find employment and gain greater independence.

A three-bedroom, two-bath home in unincorporated Pinellas County, dubbed RFL (Ready for Life) Hope Home, can house five former foster youth at a time, along with one adult team leader.

“The home was donated to us by Pinellas County,” says Debbie Johnson, executive director of the Pinellas County Housing Authority. “It had been used as an office at one time, but had been vacant for a while. We had been in the process of determining the best use for it and decided to partner with Ready for Life.”

Although this home has been set aside for young men, the hope is that additional homes for young women and young single mothers will be found in the future.

Ready for Life, a nonprofit organization providing support to former foster youth, will be renting the home from the housing authority. Grants and independent donations, along with a portion contributed by the youth once they find employment, will go toward the rent, says Kathy Mize Plummer, CEO of Ready for Life.

The Pinellas County Housing Authority rehabbed the house, installing new flooring, duct work and air conditioning, a sprinkler system and lawn. Team Hope, a group of volunteers who support Ready for Life programs, provided all the home’s furnishings, including rugs, curtains, comforters for the bed, kitchen utensils and artwork on the walls. Other volunteers who serve as mentors to the youth stocked the refrigerator and pantry.  

“So many of these young men have lived in 25 to 30 foster homes,” says Johnson.  “They have no sense of belonging. Now at least Hope Home gives them a place to come home to and one less thing to worry about while they work on becoming self-sufficient.”

Read more articles by Janan Talafer.

Janan Talafer enjoys writing for a diverse group of clients, including print and online publications, nonprofit organizations and public relations agencies. One of the highlights of her writing career was flying with the 91st Air Refueling Squadron out of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa FL for a feature about this elite military team. A journalism graduate of Bowling Green State University (OH), Janan’s early career was in health care marketing and public relations for hospitals in Connecticut and Tampa Bay. She is an avid gardener, loves East Coast swing dance and enjoys touring around St. Petersburg on the back of her husband’s scooter.
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