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Cuts loom for grown-foster-kids housing program

March 2, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A state program that helps foster kids transition to being on their own is in jeopardy due to budget cuts. If the cuts go through, hundreds of young adults could lose their homes.For nearly a decade, the state of California has provided transitional housing for foster kids who age out of the foster care system on their 18th birthday.

The program is credited with improving young adult lives by reducing homelessness, getting them to finish school, finding jobs and keeping them out of jail.

For Stacy Bagsby, it's a lifesaver. Her apartment is sparse, but with no family, who knows where she'd be.

"I don't know. Somewhere down the drain, if I didn't have this program," said Bagsby. "I'm thankful that I'm here."

Approximately 1,400 young adults in the Transitional Housing Placement Program are on the verge of getting eviction notices. If California does not get nearly $7 billion in federal funds soon, the governor has listed numerous programs for total elimination, including this service.

In Southern California that means nearly 300 former foster kids, some of whom have children of their own, will have nowhere to live starting in July.

Antonique Hawkins begged lawmakers to stop the cuts. The once homeless teen is successfully living on her own thanks to transitional housing.

"I know for sure I'd be homeless. I'd be probably dead," said Hawkins. "I don't know what I'd be doing. I wouldn't be on the right track."

But the governor's office says the cuts are not a done deal. Schwarzenegger has so far gotten nearly half of the federal money.

"So if we get the money from the federal government that we're owed, we don't have to make any of the cuts," said the governor's spokesman, Aaron McLear.

Suamhirs Rivera, though, knows Washington has never met all of California's demands.

"One of my worst fears is to become homeless," said Rivera.

State funding for transitional housing has grown from $4 million in 2004 to $40 million.