There’s no place like H.O.M.E.
What happens when you age out of the foster care system without being adopted or given a permanent home? Many young women in LA County experience this along with a spotty education, little to no income and nowhere to live. After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.
Bridge of Faith is a nonprofit that provides housing for women who are facing these same issues. It is where women who deal with the stigma of foster care can grow and become the best version of themselves, as well as members of their communities. Carol Reza, founder and Executive Director, discovered her passion for wanting to help stigmatized populations while volunteering in a women’s jail 24 years ago. That experience profoundly impacted her.
“I think once you find out something in life and it doesn’t settle well with you, you have a responsibility to step up and fill that void that you see,” she said.
Her vision is to change the generational cycle as well as status quo for girls who were impacted by the foster care experience. Located in the city of Whittier, Bridge of Faith’s house called H.O.M.E. (Home Opportunity Meets Emancipation) is funded by community businesses and individual donors and operates entirely with a volunteer staff.
They are provided with resources, a familial environment, emotional support, and taught life skills so they become independent. While living in H.O.M.E, women have access to a fitness facility, in-home counseling, and life skills workshops. While active in a Bridge of Faith program the goal is for women to become educated, self-supporting women of purpose with their own voice. Most importantly, they finally have a chance to feel safe.
One thing that really sets this organization apart is that there is no specific time limit on how long one can stay. But with that said, Reza acknowledges that Bridge of Faith is meant to be a foundation, not a temporary solution.
“We are not a quick fix. We’re not a bandage. We want to be there to help the person evolve from where they’ve been,” she said.
Women who reside in H.O.M.E. also have the opportunity to work at Upscale Collectibles, a unique and vintage finds shop in uptown Whittier. It’s not just your new favorite store— Upscale Collectibles also serves as a drop-in counseling center for the community and as a workforce training place. Women can learn and enhance customer service, money management and inventory skills. Most of the things you’ll see on the sales floor has been donated from the community.