'We're like the forgotten bunch': Foster youth fair aimed at beating the odds of homelessness

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Thursday, October 6, 2022
'Life changing' foster youth fair aimed to beat odds of homelessness
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In an effort to lower the amount of foster youth that end up homeless, the resource fair opens the conversations about mental wellness, college and job applications.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A first-of-its-kind event will take place this weekend to show those who may feel forgotten that there are opportunities for them.

Justin Hayward knows what it's like to be in the foster care system.

"We're like the forgotten bunch," Hayward explained. "We are a group of young people that people think we don't exist. The older you get the harder it gets because the more forgettable you become."

A loss that leads to a difficult start in life. The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare said more than 20,000 aged out of foster care in 2020.

Data shows more than 5,000 will become homeless by 2024. Only 600 will earn a bachelor's degree.

"To be honest, it hurts," Hayward said. "It hits a different place because when I hear those numbers, I'm a part of those numbers."

Hayward was homeless and hasn't earned a bachelor's degree. But he's trying to change this.

He started a clothing line to spread awareness. On Saturday, he's doing even more.

He's the emcee of an event aimed at helping foster youth.

"Even if you don't know who you are, don't give up on the person you see in the mirror," Hayward said. "That's the message I have for the younger me and the people that'll be at the event."

The event will take place at the Region 4 Education Service Center in northwest Houston. More than 40 vendors will be there.

Attendees can learn about mental wellness, how to get into college, and how to land a job. The event is an effort to lower the amount of foster youth that end up homeless. If you're unable to attend, the HAY Center is another option.

"We're trying to prevent that," Workforce Solutions Senior Planner Anna Kluth said. "We're trying to support all of those youth before they age out of foster youth as well as help those who may have been in foster youth."

An event Hayward said he wishes he attended as a kid.

"You don't want to get older, and look back, and say, 'I wish I did,'" Hayward said.

Which is why Hayward agreed to emcee. To prove to himself, he did as well, and hopes to show others they can too.

New You, New Opportunities Youth Conference and Resource Fair will begin at 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Oct 8 at 7145 W. Tidwell Road.

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