Senate Bill 234, also known as the Support Act, would fund new housing for at-risk youth in California. The legislation proposed by Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) makes it easier for young adults between the ages of 16 to 26 to find affordable places to live after leaving foster care, homeless shelters, or the criminal justice system.
Zack Franet, a formerly homeless youth, said the bill would help kids like him stay off the streets and find permanent housing in California.
As a child, Franet grew up in an abusive household and spent six months in foster care. Throughout his teenage years, he was in and out of a juvenile hall.
"I was acting out in school, acting out with my peers as a result of some of the chaos and abuse that was happening in my immediate household," Franet explained.
When he was 15-years-old, Franet's mother died in a car crash on Christmas day. At that point, he turned to drugs as an outlet and sold heroin to ease the pain.
"I lost my housing, I lost the remaining healthy relationships with family members that I did have, my dignity," Franet said.
Once he hit rock bottom, Franet said he had no other option but to turn to treatment centers in San Francisco like Larkin Street, a facility that helps at-risk youth.
"I learned how to process my emotions, how to talk about my issues, how to kind of take those things that had been swimming around in the dark and shine a light on them," he added.
When he was 22-years-old, Franet finally received his GED and found housing and good job opportunities.
"Through the Youth Advisory Board program, I got really involved in advocacy work around homelessness, especially around youth homelessness in the city," he said.
Now, Franet is using his past experiences to uplift unhoused youth and advocate for the Support Act. If passed, Senate Bill 234 would give $100 million to either build or purchase housing for at-risk youth in California.
"It's a really good thing to have that dedicated funding that's going to expand the housing options for young people who are directly experiencing homelessness," Franet explained.
He has been living in his own place for the past two years and said the housing he's received through these programs has helped him turn his life around.
"I can't imagine where my life would be if I had not had a housing intervention exactly when I needed it," he added.
Franet is still connected with the programs that helped him while he was homeless and addicted. He proudly acknowledges he's now been sober for the last five years.
"We have a responsibility to the young people, particularly the ones coming out of child welfare and the ones coming out of the juvenile justice system, to invest in them, so they have the resources that they need," Franet said.
With the extra funding, homeless youth in California would have a better chance to find stability and thrive in the future, Franet said.
If the bill passes as part of the state's budget, it will go into effect immediately. The Support Act is co-sponsored by the Alliance for Children's Rights, California Coalition for Youth, Children Now, and GRACE/End Child Poverty in California.