Walden Family Services’ Foster Youth Transforms Adversity into a Tiny Home Triumph
In a remarkable tale of resilience triumphing over adversity, a determined young individual, having overcome the hurdles of the foster care system, has realized the dream of homeownership by constructing his own home through a tiny home Program in Santa Clarita. Transitioning from a Transitional Housing Placement program for Non-Minor Dependents (THP-NMD), this individual found their way to Walden Family Services through a referral from their former Clinical Social Worker.
The journey began in an unsafe environment, prompting the youth’s entry into foster care. Uncomfortable in previous placements and without a safe space, he worked with Walden Family Services learning about employment opportunities, overcoming budgeting obstacles, and working towards personal and financial goals.
Since joining the Walden Family, he has not only secured full-time employment at a Notary warehouse but has also launched a personal business, saving over $25,000, which he used to construct his own tiny home.
Reflecting on the foster care journey, he shared, “I started foster care when I was 15 years old because my family was very toxic. Since being here I had to learn a lot about the world including how hard it can be, but I did it. It has allowed me to become a self-sufficient person, introduced me to resources I did not know existed, and having the opportunity to have a safe space to live.”
Q&A On The Tiny Home Process
Can you tell us about your journey through the foster care system and how it has shaped who you are today?
I started foster care when I was 15 years old because my family was very toxic. Since being here I had to learn a lot about the world including how hard it can be, but I did it. It has allowed me to become a self-sufficient person, introduced me to resources I did not know existed, and having the opportunity to have a safe space to live.
How did you become connected with Walden Family Services, and what impact have they had on your life?
I was introduced to Walden Family Services by my social worker who found the program and the impact was insane, in a good way. To be honest, I probably would have thrown myself into debt trying to get a house of my own because I refuse to be stuck paying rent at an apartment. Being with Walden helped me have time to budget, increase my savings, and build my tiny home all in perfect timing. When I finish my final touches on my home, I will be leaving Walden.
What inspired you to start a savings to build a tiny home?
I knew a tiny home would be cheaper than purchasing a traditional home, so I tried to save as much as I could to reduce monthly payments on the land that would station my tiny home. My end goal would be to park my tiny home on land of my own so that I would not have to transport it around, or to sell it and buy a home with a decent down payment to have lower monthly payments. Regardless of which path I choose to take; I have two options that would benefit me in the best way possible.
Could you describe the design and features of your tiny loft home? What makes it special and uniquely designed for your needs?
We utilized a loft floor plan since I am tall, and I need all the height I can get. The loft plan allows me to separate my sleeping area from the rest of the home. So, the bedroom is on the loft 2nd floor, and the living room/dining area and kitchen is on the 1st floor. The staircases are constructed to include built-in cabinets and closets so I can maximize all space possible for storing my clothes, shoes, linens, etc. The tiny home is about 350 sq. ft. that includes one full loft, a half loft, full kitchen, toilet, and shower. It contains everything I want and need as a single resident.
What challenges have you faced during the construction process, and how did you overcome them?
In the tiny home program, we are taught a lot about construction and carpentry, and we are then able to put our skills to the test by building our own home with their support. During the process, I was able to learn how to use a measuring tape, tools (screw gun, sander, router), and I learned how to install piping and drywall. The main challenge was the commute from my current residence to the tiny home program in Santa Clarita because I had to take a bus which was more than 1hr commute. I made it happen though because I was determined to build my dream home.
Beyond providing shelter, how do you envision your tiny loft home supporting your personal growth and aspirations?
I could probably sell it later and get a home when I am older. In the meantime, this will allow me to pay very little in monthly rental fees for the space that will house my tiny home and I won’t have to worry about a mortgage.
Your story is incredibly inspiring. What message would you like to share with other young people who have experienced challenges like yours?
If you grew in or out of the foster care system nothing else defines you besides what you make out of yourself in life. It does not matter where you came from – whether you are rich or poor, been in foster care or not, what truly matter is who you become and what you do with your life. Keep trying and striving because anything is possible. Everyone may nitpick and say you can’t do it but if you believe in yourself you can accomplish anything.
Do you see your new home as a long-term solution for your housing needs?
Yes, I like to keep to myself, and this is the perfect setting for me. This is where I feel most comfortable. It is also built to last as long as a normal home so I will be able to reside in it long term until I am ready for a new transition.
As someone who has navigated the foster care system and now created a unique living situation, do you have any ideas or suggestions for improving support systems for young adults transitioning out of foster care?
I think tiny home programs should be more accessible for youth aging out of foster care. Helping people like me invest in a tiny home and establish tiny home communities is the way of the future. As it is, even most manufactured homes cost close to what a standard home costs, and that’s just too much for a single person to afford. Having more tiny home communities and the resources to build them would allow those youth to have a safe space of their own even after they exit foster care.
How do you hope your story will impact and inspire others who may be facing similar circumstances or contemplating alternative housing options?
I never thought about being an inspiration or anything like that, but I hope my experience gives my peers some ideas about how to create and build a better and more affordable future for themselves while gaining the experience of building their own home. Plus, it helps avoid having to pay the ridiculous prices for a small studio apartment in Los Angeles.
What dreams or aspirations do you have for the future, and how do you see your tiny loft home playing a part in those dreams?
I want my business to grow so that I can travel and do things I’ve always wanted to do. My tiny home is going to be a major help since I’ll finally have a place to call my own. I can either load it onto a vehicle and transport it where I go, or I can sell it and relocate when I’m ready.
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