Local Shelter Creates Independent Living Program For Foster Kids

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- The Fort Smith Children's Emergency Shelter unveiled an independent living program for kids in Arkansas who have aged out of foster care.

"The program is to help our young adults to become independent and to not rely on the government for funding," Advancement Coordinator Ashley Ahlert said. "They are responsible for paying rent, they are responsible for paying their utilities. We have a program manager that works with them on setting their budget, whether it's paying rent or utilities, phone bill, going to the grocery store, transportation to and from school, or getting into vocational school or applying for jobs."

Get Real 24 will help kids 18 and older transition into adulthood by allowing them to live at a 24-unit apartment complex.

Ahlert said sometimes foster kids are not able to develop the skills needed to live on their own once they age out of the foster care system.

"The majority of foster youth have just been moved from house to house, shelter to shelter throughout their lives so they haven't had the opportunity to gain the life skills that might be obvious to somebody that's lived in a stable home," Ahlert said.

This program will not only give these young adults a place to live, but it will help them plan for their future.

"70 percent of foster youth, once they age out of care at 18, end up homeless, hungry, incarcerated or suicidal," Ahlert said. "By offering them Get Real 24, we give them the opportunity to gain the life skills they need, so instead of depending on the government, they're contributing to the government and helping build their community."

The shelter hopes to bring relief to foster kids as they step into the real world.

"We're not necessarily hanging over their heads and telling them to do this and do that, but we're helping guide them through those curves and bumps that they need support in," Ahlert said.

So far, the program has three residents and is working through the application process to approve more.

For more information about the living program or to apply, you can visit the Fort Smith Children's Emergency Shelter website.

Get Real 24 has been selected in the top 200 for the State Farm Neighborhood Assist program. If the shelter makes the top 40, it will receive a $25,000 grant. You can vote online by clicking the Vote banner on the shelter website.