Unity Care, a nonprofit organization, is moving into its second year after the launch of the Navigation program which supports foster youth and their housing needs.

Unity Care, is an organization that supports youth and young adults in their transition from foster care to independent adulthood. The purpose of the San Francisco Housing Navigation Program is to stem the tide of emancipating foster care youth ending up in homelessness or the criminal justice system by providing a holistic approach to a systemic issue. The pilot program has been running for a year and a half, with foster youth referrals from San Francisco County Human Services Agency.

“It is imperative that we not only provide our youth with the tools for success but also provide assistance and support throughout their journey to self-actualization and discovery,” says Sheila Mitchell, CEO of Unity Care. “Through the program, these young adults can learn to live independently and develop the skills and tools they need to thrive in the future.”

Through the Navigation program, youth obtain a permanent, and affordable home with a lease in their own name and start a new trajectory to stabilization and healthier adulthood. Housing Choice Vouchers (HVC) provide financial support to obtain housing by allowing the San Francisco Housing Authority to cover most, if not, all of the youth’s rent. Youths only pay 30% of their income on housing-related expenses like rent and utilities.

The program utilizes 2 different HVCs: Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) vouchers, which provide 3 years of financial support and are assigned to non-parenting youth. Emergency Housing Vouchers or EHVs, are assigned to expectant or parenting youth and are lifetime vouchers.

As of October 2021, the program has successfully housed over 30 participants, with 40 overall enrolled in the program. The California Department of Housing and Community Development has additional information about state support for the program at https://www.hcd.ca.gov/grants-and-funding/programs-active/housing-navigators-program.

Unity Care hopes to expand the program with the development of the Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP), where youth transitioning out of foster care can build healthy supportive networks, create educational goals, and help find employment to create a stable future.

Unity Care seeks to transform the lives of its youth who are in or emerging from foster care. Founded in 1993, the group provides caring connections, life skills, support, and stable housing options to help its youth meet their potential. Unity Care’s housing and programs are available to current and former foster youth as well as families. The program serves Santa Clara, San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Sacramento, Monterey, Placer, Nevada, and El Dorado counties in California.

To learn more about Unity Care, please visit their website at https://www.unitycare.org/