"Dig in girls!" Lisa Peat hollers as she fills drinks. She's made lasagna for the three residents of her non-profit called The Taylor House, a transitional home for newly emancipated foster youth and homeless young women. Every week she checks in personally to share bubbling conversation and a home-cooked meal. Tonight they talked about a new resident soon to arrive and debated the merits of the Twilight series. (Few, they decided.)
"I can relate to them because I was a teen girl once," Peat says. With tears budding, she adds, "I relied on my parents so much and it hurts me that they don't have parents to rely on. I just want to fill in the blanks."
Peat said just showing up consistently is important to the young women, who are used to being let down by adults. "They're the blood of our future and they're more than their past."
Peat, a retired banker, began her work with foster youth in 2007 as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) in Placer County. CASAs work one-on-one with foster youth to advocate for their best interest in courts. She stumbled upon the volunteer opportunity through a newspaper article, but then became hooked to the cause. "I'm very passionate about justice and doing the right thing, especially with animals, children and old people," she said. She still works as a CASA.
Last year she bought this 7 bedroom house in Roseville and quickly decided to turn it into a home where emancipated foster youth can get guidance as they transition into adult life. When she bought the house it was in terrible shape, having been run down by squatters. She and an army of volunteers hauled 3 1/2 tons of garbage out of the house. Now it's a fresh and lively place where up to four young women can live, along with one house manage - the Taylor House's only paid staff member.
The home, now a non-profit officially named Supporting the Taylor House Inc., opened it's doors in January of this year. There is no other place like it in this area. Peat makes the experience of moving in a close to the real world as possible, requiring an application, a deposit and rent. In addition to that, she requires all the residents to attend two life skills classes a month, covering topics such as resume writing or cooking. She also provides personal guidance and mentoring by having a meal with the residents weekly. She helps them pursue their educational and employment goals, but with a light enough touch that they can make mistakes and learn from them.
"You give them enough rope to hang themselves with and then be there to pick them back up again," she said.
There is no time limit for how long the young women can stay. In the safety of the Taylor House, she wants them to create good habits and be strong enough to thrive on their own when they leave. "Prisons are riddled with foster youth," Peat says. She wants a brighter future for them.
"My dream is that they stay long enough that they don't have to flip burgers. They can own the burger joints," Peat said.
For more information visit www.thetaylorhouse.org.
Do you know someone who's done amazing things for people in our region? Please send your suggestions for the I Care column to Autumn Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.