Empowered By Orange County United Way

From Foster Care to Housing Stability and a Future Career in Fashion

Felipe’s childhood was not easy and was filled with more trials, trauma and tribulations than any child should have to weather.

He entered the foster care system at 16 years old, right in the middle of high school. Two years later, he aged out of the foster care system and ventured out on his own with the hopes of becoming independent. During this time, he learned to manage his own money, and the general “do’s and don’ts” that come with having roommates.

However, a series of unfortunate incidents caused setbacks with his living situation and with no family support, Felipe was unable to pay his rent and found himself without a place to live. In August 2020, Felipe entered into a transitional living program for homeless youth. As a former foster youth, Felipe applied for a Family Unification Program (FUP) voucher, which is given to young adults who have left or will be leaving foster care and are either currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

He applied with encouragement and support from his case manager, and was awarded one in December 2020.

“We wouldn’t be anywhere in life without our struggles. While I’ve struggled plenty, I can appreciate where I am in life now,” said Felipe.

After receiving his FUP voucher, the Orangewood Foundation introduced Felipe to WelcomeHomeOC, and in just one month, he had a place to call his own. The WelcomeHomeOC program also helped pay his security deposit fees and furnished his new one-bedroom apartment.

“If you would have told me I’d be here, living in my own home and working towards my dreams of being in fashion, I would have laughed,” said Felipe. “I’m so grateful to WelcomeHomeOC. It made me hopeful. I’m making each day count, and I have people on my side.”

Felipe is driven, passionate and motivated. He currently works as a head baker for a renowned Orange County restaurant while he pursues a career in fashion. Soon he will be attending Cal Poly Pamona to study in their fashion program. He also plans to continue being a leader in the Latino community, advocating for change and breaking down barriers that will allow his community to better themselves and their families.

“The biggest message I want to put out into the universe is that of perseverance. No matter how much you feel like you’re being overlooked, tomorrow is a new day and there are people who actually do want to help you,” added Felipe.