And now, one year after joining the program, Christopher Martinez has graduated college and started his first job.
"Coming out of college, some of us with debt, some of us just trying to get started out of school, the $1,000 is a really big deal," Martinez explained.
Carried out in collaboration with the nonprofit Strength-Based Community Change, Breathe has now become the first guaranteed income program to expand to foster youth from the Department of Children and Family Services who are aging out of the system.
"When these resources end, we're really limiting opportunities and young people are really left to fend for themselves, which for foster youth and former foster youth that don't have a history of having a family and having support, I mean we're throwing them out there in the streets really to fend for themselves without the right support," says Ely Fournier, the director of economic vitality with SBCC.
Two hundred randomly selected former DCFS foster youth across the county between 21 and 23 years of age will now receive $1,000 a month for the next two years, hoping to address the challenges they are more likely to face than their peers, such as homelessness, unemployment and being involved in the criminal justice system.
"If you dig into the backgrounds and what the data says and really the limitations of resources and opportunities for this population, $1,000 a month is huge," Fournier pointed out.
All Breathe participants have counseling and guidance available, and data is being collected to study the program's effectiveness. So far, getting financial resources directly into the hands of people who need it is making a difference.
"These funds allow those opportunities that I think for many of us, we take for granted that these are the types of opportunities that really create long-term change for folks," Fournier said.
Martinez echoes these sentiments.
"Sometimes we ask the question, like, 'Who's deserving of this money?' So far, I feel that the people who I've met that have been participants in the program have all been deserving, so I wouldn't be surprised that foster youth would be using this money for great things," he said.