New housing initiative helps former foster children in OC escape homelessness

TUSTIN, Calif. (KABC) -- After spending most of his life in the foster care system and living on the streets in recent years, 22-year-old Christian Blanch finally has a place to call home.

"Very emotional. It's a blessing, you know," said Blanch. "It's hard for me to explain my blessing, my feelings. 'Cause I'm feeling great about having my own place."

This week, he got his own place in Tustin, thanks to a new housing assistance initiative called Foster Youth to Independence. It was launched this year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Orange County is one of only two counties in the state to benefit so far.

"For the first time in his life, he's gonna have an identity realizing that this is my house, this is my couch, this is my blender, this is my microwave, this is where I sleep," said Christopher Patterson with HUD, who is also a former foster child.

Through the initiative, former foster kids are given vouchers that help pay 70% of their rent for three years. The hope is that they'll eventually gain full independence.

"We're absolutely thrilled. His furniture, as you saw, is coming in and he's setting it up to be his home, so we couldn't be more happy for Christian," said Becks Heyhoe, director of United to End Homelessness, Orange County United Way.

For Blanch, his smile says it all.

"I've been brought to tears just at seeing the hope, hope come alive I guess. That these kids have hope for a better future, the things that they've been through, and just knowing the community of support," said Lourdes Chavez, Independent Living Program supervisor with Children and Family Services.

Blanch lights up when discussing what he has planned.

"My aunts and my tios and my little sisters and my little brothers, they're gonna come over here and my aunts are gonna teach me how to cook, too," he said.

HUD says 24,000 vouchers are available nationwide. Orange County got 25 of them.
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