The Vanguard Staff
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — The California State Senate has approved a measure that will provide universal basic income for youth coming out of the foster care system, a unique piece of legislation championed by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
SB 739 is cosponsored by Boudin, and authored by Bay Area Senate Dave Cortese. The state bill is built from a similar program developed by the DA Office as part of a plan to help vulnerable young people.
“Transitional age youth without familial support far too often end up victimized or arrested and incarcerated for committing crimes to support themselves,” said District Attorney Chesa Boudin, adding, “I am proud to cosponsor Senator Cortese’s SB 739 to pilot a program that would close that gap for those who age out of foster care this year.
“This pilot program will show that those youth who get support will build a foundation for future health and success. These and other basic income programs will prove to be an excellent, and ultimately more cost-effective, use of government resources and will help to make our communities safer,” Boudin said.
The SF DA explained SB 739 would provide direct, monthly cash assistance through a statewide universal basic income (UBI) Pilot Program to support the approximately 2,500 youth who age out of Extended Foster Care in California each year.
The DA Office said youth who age out of the foster care system lack parental or other familial support, and many are unable to attend or graduate from college or trade school.
Boudin notes that many are forced into homelessness; and far too many become involved in the criminal legal system, either as victims made vulnerable by living on the streets or as people who
commit crimes of survival.
“Santa Clara County’s Universal Basic Income for young adults exiting the foster care system was a groundbreaking program and we are grateful to Senator Cortese and District Attorney Boudin for their continued leadership on behalf of young people,” said Larkin Street Youth Services Executive Director Sherilyn Adams.
“By scaling this program statewide, SB 739 expands the pilot’s solution space, ensuring this critical resource is available to at least 2,500 former foster youth across California. We know that early intervention is paramount to supporting youth exiting the foster care system and ultimately critical for all youth experiencing homelessness.
“We test and scale creative solutions that give young people the resources they need to remain stably housed and achieve their goals, and we will make tangible progress in solving homelessness, not only for Transitional Age Youth, but across all demographics,” added Adams.
DA Boudin visited Larkin Street Youth Services’ facility recently and met with Adams and other staff members. Larkin Street Youth Services is a nonprofit that empowers young people to move beyond homelessness.
Since its founding in 1984, it has assisted over 75,000 young adults in San Francisco by providing a continuum of housing, healthcare, employment, and education services.
It’s been a joint effort to help Larkin Street Youth Services.
The District Attorney’s Office, the Superior Court, the Probation Department, and other justice partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Larkin Street Youth Services as part of the Young Adult Court (YAC) program since last September, said the DA Office.
The office explains that “YAC is a specialty court in San Francisco for young people ages 18-24 who have been charged with a criminal case. YAC partners work to support them into successfully transitioning into adulthood and to provide the support and services necessary to disrupt the cycles of incarceration and poverty.”
The program works to reduce recidivism by helping to address the root causes of crimes committed by young people to prevent future offenses.
As part of the MOU, Larkin Street provides safe and supportive housing to youth referred by Young Adult Court; provides case management, housing navigation and referrals; and participates in collaborative case conferences to support young people in the program.
“It is critical that we provide justice-involved youth with the support they need as they enter adulthood, and our partnership with Larkin Street Services is a key component of that effort,” said Assistant District Attorney Azita Ghafourpour, who represents the District Attorney’s Office in Young Adult Court.
“Supporting justice-involved youth is not only the right thing to do, but it protects public safety as it reduces the chance of recidivism,” Ghafourpour added.
The District Attorney’s Office also reported it is supporting a diversion program for unaccompanied children who are the victims of human trafficking and who have been arrested for drug-related offenses.
The MOU, signed in March of 2021 by the District Attorney’s Office, the University of San Francisco Law School Immigration Clinic, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Bar Association of San Francisco, helps divert youth at the prefiling stage out of the juvenile justice system and into a program that is tailored for the needs of children fleeing violence, poverty and trauma in Central America.
The DA Office said the program provides case management and therapeutic services to connect unaccompanied children to school and employment. The District Attorney’s Office said it has the sole discretion to determine which cases are referred to UCAP.
“There is perhaps no more vulnerable group than children who are alone and have escaped dangerous conditions before coming here,” said USF Law Professor Bill Ong Hing.
“I commend DA Boudin for partnering with the USF Immigration Clinic to ensure that these children are not simply mindlessly funneled into the criminal justice system but are given a real chance to succeed,” he added.
“My office will continue to develop innovative approaches to advocating for vulnerable youth, as we have been doing since I took office,” said DA Boudin, noting, “For too long the criminal justice system has ignored the unique needs of children and has failed to invest in kids.
“We must ensure that our most vulnerable children are given the support and services they need to flourish. Our partnerships with visionary state legislators like Senator Cortese, non-profits such as Larkin Street, as well as with law schools like USF, help us promote public safety by giving justice-involved kids the tools to succeed,” he added.
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