FosterClub Youth Leaders Advocate for Homelessness Reform

YouthLeaderMay 15, 2015 – FosterClub youth leaders Dani Townsend, Tamisha Maklin and Taevon Harvin-Pierre advocated at the Homelessness Among Foster Youth open forum sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth. To further the discussion of the challenges foster youth face with finding housing, the youth leaders shared their personal experiences with homelessness in front of advocates, child welfare organizations, and congressional staff. For youth who age out of the foster care system, finding reliable and secure housing is one of their biggest challenges. Many find themselves homeless, on the street, or couch surfing.

Twenty-two year old, Dani Townsend spent eight years in the Illinois foster care system. During Dani’s transition to adulthood, she didn’t have access to housing therefor she spent nights in stairwells of apartment buildings or University buildings, or on a friend’s couch. The vulnerability of homelessness dragged Dani into the drug scene and trafficking. Despite these barriers, Dani was able to escape the unsafe environment and enroll in college, where she received financial aid. This financial support allowed her to secure a safer living situation. Dani is now able to focus on her own safety and well-being. 

Tamisha Maklin is twenty-seven years old, currently homeless and trying to complete her degree. Tamisha has been determined to complete college after hearing that foster youth are less likely to finish a bachelor’s degree than homeless youth. Tamisha spent 12 years the Colorado foster care system. Emancipated at the age of 19, housing has proven to be a consistent barrier for Tamisha to reach her educational goals, which will help secure a job and give her financial means for stable housing.

Twenty year old, Taevon Harvin-Pierre has endured many struggles growing up in the Florida child welfare system. He has endured homelessness both in and out of care. At 18 years old and within the first few months of aging out, Taevon found himself couch surfing and unable to make ends meet. His unsafe, unstable living situation interrupted his pursuit of a GED and college enrollment, which compounded his barriers to a successful transition to adulthood. Regardless, Taevon is determined to finish college, even if that means experiencing homelessness to do so, and is also a member of Florida Youth SHINE.

Held in the Senate Dirksen Building, the Homelessness Among Foster Youth open forum brought together advocates, child welfare organizations, and congressional staff to learn about and discuss the challenges foster youth face with finding housing. Approximately 23,000 youth age out of the foster care system each year. Of these youth, approximately 11-36 percent become homeless, while another 25-50 percent experience unstable housing. While the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act was created to help foster youth transition to adulthood and independent living, foster youth still face economic challenges and homelessness.