It takes a whole community of us here at BCFES to help ensure access, retention, and graduation of all students with a lived experience in foster care. To show our appreciation, we are featuring fellow staff members to share a little bit of their world and the passion they have for the students we serve.
La Donna Sewell
Associate Director of BCFES Housing First Project
Could you share a little bit about yourself?
L: My name is La Donna. I have my Master's in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I began working with foster youth as a CPS Investigator. I then worked with Community In Schools, which brought me to my journey at UTSA. I am a born advocate and don’t like to see anyone struggle unnecessarily. I have a passion to help, and I can be very creative about it; if I don’t have the resources, I find them and find some way to connect whomever to what they need.
I’d like to continue with Housing First because of the youth that it serves. I had no idea when I took this position that so many former foster youth age out of care and have nowhere to go. This position allows me to do my small part. To see where someone lacks resources and help fill that gap - it does something that you cannot buy. That is my spark.
What is the Housing First Project?
L: The Housing First Project is HUD funded and is a demonstration project, which means it is brand new and and meant to develop a system to end youth homelessness. Our focus is on former foster youth aged 18-24 who are homeless, imminently homeless (will be homeless within 14 days), or fleeing domestic violence. We are able to provide up to 24 months of rental assistance and supportive services, including childcare assistance, groceries, transportation, life skills, legal assistance, counseling, medical, dental, etc.
We try to mitigate barriers to get youth back on their feet, so when they are no longer enrolled, they are able to continue with their housing stability. Youth can choose to live anywhere in Bexar County; however, we try to guide them in choosing affordable options that are close to their school and work.
What does your typical day-to-day look like at Housing First?
L: I started off as a housing coach doing case management, but now, as the Associate Director, I train other housing coaches, handle budgeting, interface with different landlords and agencies that can provide assistance, and build partnerships. This month, we completed our first mobile clinic with UT Health to provide services for youth! I hope to do this at least quarterly and eventually monthly for our youth.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
L: Although we have certain stipulations and eligibility criteria that we have to follow, I am open to answering any and all questions about housing. I may not know everything but I will find you an answer or someone who has it.
La Donna, thank you for taking the time to share your work with us. We appreciate you and all of the work you do!