A San Diego-based non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and opening doors for young adults who have aged out of the foster care system will get to help more people after receiving a $45,000 grant from NBCUniversal’s Project Innovation.
Just in Time for Foster Youth (JIT) is committed to enriching the lives of foster youth by helping them obtain housing and transportation, emergency and basic needs, training, networking and more. The organization began in 2002 and has since helped 1,200 San Diegans.
CEO Don Wells said the pandemic has made it especially hard for the program’s participants. He told NBC 7 since the pandemic amplified difficulties foster youth already faced, JIT helped hundreds of more individuals.
“We’ve actually served more young people this past year than we ever have before,” he said.
He added that the pandemic brought back traumatic experiences for participants, such as isolation due to stay-at-home orders that were put in place.
“This sort of pullback where now they were isolated was a reminder of what that felt like,” Wells said. “So, we really had to make sure that we did that outreach.”
JIT made sure its participants didn’t slip through the cracks and continued to offer its services during the pandemic. They kept their doors open to anyone who needed a food card, bus pass, computer time or other services.
The program is a lifeline for its participants, who describe mentors and other participants as family. Aleen Escobar told NBC 7 she joined the program in 2015 shortly after she found herself on her own.
Escobar had just left her foster parents’ house and enrolled at San Diego State University with just her clothes in her possession. She said JIT’s collegebound program helped her secure items that made her higher education experience better.
“Automatically I thought, ‘I can get some blankets and a sheet! I don’t have to be cold anymore,’” she said.
Reflecting on how the non-profit has helped her, Escobar said Just in Time gave her a sense of belonging and support.
“I felt connected. I felt loved. I felt like this was my family,” she said.
For more information on Just in Time, click here.