When Stevie Romero was released from state custody last week, it was the first time for the 22-year-old to be out on her own. Romero, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has been in foster care for the past eight years because of abuse in her home.
“I’m excited to live out on my own. I will miss my foster family but this will be great,” said Romero.
Like many youth aging out of foster care, Romero is at a high risk for homelessness or incarceration. But Romero is fortunate to participate in the Youth Services Milestone Project, a transitional housing program for eleven males and females aging out of foster care in Salt Lake County.
The Milestone Project, with homes in West Valley City and Sandy, was previously managed by the nonprofit Utah Youth Mentor Project. Because of limited funding and resources, Utah Youth Mentor Project was faced with either closing down the transitional homes or signing them over to another agency. Not wanting to lose the valuable resource for the aging-out population, Youth Services recently took over the contracts and the first youth will be moving into the homes at the end of the week. The properties are being leased from the Salt Lake County Housing Authority and the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.
“The Milestone Project is a natural fit with our shelter care program and will provide a seamless transition for youth aging out of foster care with no other options. We look forward to a continued partnership with the Utah Youth Mentor Project in providing essential resources to youth in need,” said Youth Services Director Carolyn Hansen.
The Utah Youth Mentor Project will partner with Youth Services by providing one-on-one mentors for the Milestone participants, as well as housing advocacy. This includes assisting the youth in finding appropriate housing options and teaching life-skills and self-sufficiency workshops.
Milestone Project participants will begin the program with minimal rent payments ($100 to $200) that increase $50 every three months. The rent increase is meant to help the youth adjust to market value rent payments and to help them transition to independent housing in a short amount of time. Rental assistance is available through the Salt Lake County Division of Community Resources and Development.
Youth can earn financial incentives by completing their education, finding employment or volunteering in the community. Those incentives are put into a savings account for each youth, which can be used for a housing deposit once the youth is ready to transition out on their own.
For youth like Romero, the Milestone Project provides a safety net as she learns how to live independently.
Milestone Project In the News:
- Young Utahns Moving Away from Homelessness ( Salt Lake Tribune)
- Youth Services Takes Over Transitional Housing Program (Deseret News)
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