Elijah Jung came to BCFS Health and Human Services’ youth transition center in Lubbock, Texas with nowhere else to turn. He entered the foster care system at just 10 years old after being removed from an unhealthy home environment. When he aged out of foster care at 18 years old, he experienced bouts of homelessness. Looking back, Elijah says that although that was the most difficult time in his life, he’s a firm believer in “what’s past is in the past.” It was his steadfast nature and refusal to give up that primed him to turn his life around when he first came to the transition center.
First, BCFS Lubbock Transition Center met his most essential needs, providing him gift cards for food. Once he had temporary housing in place, the transition center gave him a bicycle to get to and from school.
He also joined the Launch Project, a hands- on job skills training program offered through a partnership with BCFS, the local state university and workforce commission. The program taught Elijah the ins and outs of joining the workforce, from how to find a job to how to dress for success. Ultimately, this helped him get a job at a local carwash.
During the next month, Elijah was in and out of his home, and began having problems with his bike. BCFS helped him pay for repairs to his bike so he could keep going to work, and referred him to another local non-profit to receive clothing, food, and free haircuts to stay looking professional on-the-job.
Soon after, Elijah got another job at a nearby hotel known for working with BCFS youth.
The transition center partners closely with local employers and businesses, building relationships that help youth find – and keep – gainful employment. In Elijah’s case, this helped BCFS staff get real-time feedback on his performance at work, so they could celebrate his victories along the way, and re-train him in any areas that needed improvement, like rules of attendance and hygiene.
Even with a busy school and work schedule, Elijah still made time to volunteer at the Humane Society. So it was definitely a show-stopper when his only mode of transportation, his trusty bicycle, was stolen. Thankfully, BCFS replaced his bike so Elijah could stay on-the-move.
Until that point, Elijah had been receiving financial aid from a local residential treatment center to help pay rent on his small apartment. When this critical financial aid expired, BCFS picked up the tab and immediately began teaching Elijah how to budget and save. Together they weaned him off outside financial support entirely until he began to pay his rent, utilities and bills on his own.
Even as problem after problem arose, the BCFS transition center was there to support him. Finally, a turning point came for Elijah when the transition center helped him get into a Job Corps program in Utah where he could learn the skills to become a certified welder. So he moved to Utah, but always remembered to call “home” to the transition center to let the BCFS team know how he was doing. Since Elijah was a Texan transplant, unequipped for the cold Utah winters, his BCFS family sent him a care package of warm clothes and plenty of long-distance encouragement. At the Job Corps, Elijah earned his welder’s certification and his driver’s license.
At the annual Hope Chest event hosted by the BCFS Lubbock Transition Center, BCFS honors local high school and college graduates in foster care and those who aged out of the system. At the event, the youth go on a shopping spree for essential household items for their first dorm room or apartment, guided by volunteers with a budget, shopping list and calculator in-hand.
Even though Elijah had moved far away, he was not forgotten back home at the transition center when Hope Chest came around. BCFS paid to fly him back to Texas for the big event, where he was honored alongside the college graduates for earning his certification in welding. He was also given a $1,000 gift card to shop for household and hygiene essentials.
Most importantly, Elijah was able to reconnect with his BCFS mentors that helped him grow into a confident, hopeful and independent young man.