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CA Foster Youth Often Slip Through the Cracks. Cutting Their Rental Support Won't Help.
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By CalMatters
Published 2 months ago on
February 26, 2024

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25% of former California foster youth experienced homelessness by age 23.

Gov. Newsom’s proposed budget cuts a supplement for foster youth housing.

The cut contradicts Newsom’s efforts to combat the state’s homelessness crisis.


Combatting California’s most pressing issue of homelessness is all about increasing the outflow of people from the street, while decreasing the inflow onto it. A highly cost-effective approach is to identify a group predisposed to becoming homeless and ensuring they don’t slip through.


Daniel Heimpel

Special to CalMatters

Tragically, one such group is young people that cross paths with the foster care system. According to the seminal CalYOUTH study, one quarter of former California foster youth surveyed experienced homelessness between the ages of 21 and 23, with an additional 28% saying they had couch surfed.

Understanding this, the Legislature proposed and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a budget measure last year that would increase direct cash payments to some 3,000 Californians. These young people, ages 18-21, are in a program called Supervised Independent Living Placement, or SILP. The program allows foster youth to identify their own housing and receive a $1,129 monthly payment to cover rent and everything else.

That rate hadn’t changed for more than a decade, all while the rental market became more brutal and unforgiving. The so-called SILP supplement was supposed to increase the monthly rate by as much as $1,300 depending on the county.

Unfortunately, the governor’s proposed budget would cut the supplement altogether. Not only is this cynical, reneging on a promise to thousands of foster youth who are overwhelmingly Black or Latino and live in poverty, but it is nonsensical.

Before the extra dollars were approved last year, I spoke with a half dozen young people currently in a SILP, or who had been. They all said that finding a safe and stable place to live was near impossible with their monthly check. They were thrilled at the possibility of a little more money for them or others in foster care.

It offered a modicum of dignity.

One remembered being terrified to take her newborn to the bug-infested apartment she could afford in San Francisco. In Los Angeles, a young man told me about his repeated stints on Los Angeles’ streets after his friends stopped letting him sleep on their couches. Another, from Sonoma County, said that she had to sleep in her car to save up enough money to rent an apartment.

“It was embarrassing, bathing in the sink before work and sleeping in unfamiliar neighborhoods,” she told me. “It was a lonely journey.”

I can understand that the governor and his staff faced tough choices when staring down a $38 billion budget shortfall. They may not even realize they are compromising a cost-effective and morally just homelessness prevention strategy.

The supplement was supposed to provide more cash directly into the hands of overwhelmingly poor foster youth – not only helping them contribute to the economy, but also forestalling the high cost associated with them becoming homeless.

But most jarring is how the cut runs counter to Newsom’s well-earned legacy as the steely-eyed fighter of the state’s raging homelessness crisis. Project Homekey alone was a major innovation of the government’s role in quickly housing the unhoused. But for all the housing secured to take people off the street, more keep pouring onto it.

The annual budget allocation for the supplement ($25.5 million) is infinitesimal compared to the current proposed budget ($291.5 billion). Roughly 26% of the extra funding is paid by the federal government.

In the SILP supplement, Newsom had a small, smart and just intervention – one that promised to severely degrade the foster care-to-homelessness pipeline and put thousands of young people on the path to dignity and success.

I hope I am right, that Newsom never knew SILP was cut and that he will fulfill the promise he made to foster youth last summer. Reinstating the funds into the state budget is the kind of intervention California and those young people need.

About the Author

Daniel Heimpel is the managing director of Good River Partners. He wrote this for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. 

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