|Michael Outrich, facilitating the SE Ohio Reaching for Success|
conference for foster care youth at Ohio University.
My name is Michael Outrich and I am a foster care alumnus who emancipated from Cuyahoga County Ohio. I currently attend graduate school at The Ohio State University majoring in City and Regional Planning.
I represent Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now (ACTION Ohio), a statewide organization that is dedicated to improving outcomes for former foster care youth. ACTION Ohio brings together the voices of youth in care, alumni of care, and allies to create lasting change and to empower and generate hope for current and former foster youth, based on access to resources, ally support and, alumni expertise.
I am writing to express my strong support for the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act. As a former foster youth myself, it matters to me that one in five young people who “age out” of foster care experience homelessness not only because of this dismal statistic but because I was homeless. This program offers a creative solution to help, with no additional spending required.
While I was pursuing my bachelors at Ohio University, I became homeless during breaks, because I had no family to support me. I didn't know what to do or where to go for help. I spent time couch-hopping on friend's sofas, and in shelters.
When I became eligible to move off campus after my sophomore year, I was really excited to get my own place. However, I was required to have a cosigner to my lease due to my age and lack of credit history. Being an emancipated foster youth with no family support, I had no cosigner. My options were: (a.) to pay the entire lease’s rent in full, (b.) to take out more student loans, (c.) to stay in campus housing, which would require me to take out more loans, or (d.) to apply for Section 8.
I decided to try to look into Section 8, because my income was low enough to qualify. I submitted an application and found out it would be four years before I would likely find a place. Athens County is a very poor county and many need subsidized housing. So I ended up needing to take out more student loans to pay the cost up-front. I still do this today living in Columbus while attending The Ohio State University for Grad School.
If the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act were in place, many of the struggles I experienced and continue to experience, would be mitigated or avoided altogether. I still have to pay my lease in full up-front at the start of every term, and am fortunate enough to have landed a Graduate Research Position which pays well, but many of my peers are not so fortunate. The passage of this Act would allow them the stability and access to improve their outcomes as they further their education, employment, and achieve their goals, dreams, and aspirations all the while becoming more productive members of society.
Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now