SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The statistics for foster kids aging out of the system are grim.
According to the National Foster Youth Institute, after reaching the age of 18, 20 percent of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless. And there's a less than a 3 percent chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.
San Diego nonprofit Just in Time for Foster Youth (JIT) is doing its part to prevent young people here from becoming a statistic.
"When you turn 18 a lot of times the foster parents say here is a few dollars and you're on your own, there's no one to help you out," said Ivan Chavez, who was in the foster system from age 7 to 17.
Growing up, he didn't have many positive role models.
"For me, I never went to high school, and I barely went to middle school."
But his journey brought him to JIT, where he now works as a full-time employee.
JIT's My First Home (MFH) program helps former foster youth furnish and move into their new living space, creating a foundation for stable housing.
Once every month, youth participants involved in the program have the chance to shop at the MFH Distribution Center, providing participants housing essentials for free, such as furniture, electronics, linens, and appliances.
"They come in through the front door they're like you have all this stuff, and it's for me? They feel special, you know?" said Chavez.
Chavez went from once living on the streets to now pursuing a master's degree.
"If I saw my 15-year-old self, I would say everything is going to be ok. You're going to grow up, and you're going to do good and hopefully change people's lives," said Chavez.
The distribution center relies on community donations, and they currently need more couches, dining room tables, and dressers.
You can learn more about helping the nonprofit on the Just in Time for Foster Youth website.