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Foster Kids Get Lift From METRO PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 05:13

New Program Gives Them Free Transportation on Trains and Buses

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

In the first program of its kind in the nation, young people who are leaving the foster care system can now get a free pass on METRO buses and trains.

The new program, called Youth on the Move, is a oneyear pilot that offers free passes to foster youths between the ages of 18-21 who are participating in the Los Angeles County Youth Self-Sufficiency Program, which helps them transition from foster care to independent living. Foster youth between the ages of 22- 24 may obtain the passes in special cases.

Those who sign up for the program will get a special TAP (Transit Access Pass) card that will identify them as "Youth on the Move" participants. Only 2,000 of these cards will be issued, said Helen Ortiz- Gilstrap, a METRO spokeswoman.

Those interested in applying for the program should contact their case coordinator, Ortiz- Gilstrap said One of those who has already benefited by the program is Tomas Diaz, 20, who bikes every day from his home in Downey to Cerritos College, a distance of about eight miles.

"I get up at 6 a.m. and I have to be out of the house before seven so I can get to school on time," Diaz said. "It's draining.

When I get to school, I'm worn out. I still have to take another shower in college.

"Now this will allow me to study on the bus and it's going to save me a ton of energy." Norma Lathan will not only save time and energy getting to her new job in Santa Monica, but about $200 a month in transportation costs, money she said she sorely needs as she currently lives in a shelter in Hollywood.

However, because she's 19 and already has a job, Lathan said she was told she must leave the shelter where she's been staying these past few months.

"These passes are a Godsend. It saves me a lot of money and hassle. I'm trying to save my money so I can get out of there (shelter) and move into my own place," she said.

Miani Giron is also trying to save as much as she can while she gets ready to attend college in New York next fall.

"These passes will help me establish my independence because this way I don't have to rely on anybody to take me places," said the 18-year-old, who lives in South Los Angeles and works as a lifeguard and swimming instructor.

"I use the bus at least three times a week and sometimes everyday, so it's really convenient for me because now I don't have to pay for the bus and I can save the money for books and other things I'll need when I get to college."

Approximately 1,800 youth in the Los Angeles Foster Care System turn 18 every year, meaning they often must deal with the realities of adulthood, often at a disadvantage, because they lack resources, jobs, and a family to support them, said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who heads the METRO board of directors.

And having a car doesn't always come into play since owning and maintaining one costs an average of $11,000 per year, according to Antonovich.

"This program allows them to go to work, to find a place they can call home and go to school," the supervisor said. "This way they'll be able to become the valuable members of society we so desperately need them to be."

The new program began in June, as 20 foster youths between the ages of 18 and 21 were issued the new METRO passes.

To obtain the passes or for more information, visit ilponline. org.

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

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Last Updated on Thursday, 05 July 2012 05:18