SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A bed and a dresser. Something simple and something most people own. For some youth, those two things can seem like a huge step to ever owning or at least having access to them every day.

Youth in crisis may never have those things. The Salt Lake City Rotary Club and Salt Lake County Youth Services Milestone Transitional Living Program (TLP) are teaming up to try to help those youth obtain those two things and so much more.

The Salt Lake City Rotary Club has announced it has been awarded $2.9 million through the Utah Office of Homeless Services Deeply Affordable Housing Grant. Along with fundraising efforts, this will allow the Rotary to purchase additional housing for The Milestone TLP program with the hopes of housing and transitioning young adults.

“The Milestone program served 42 young people last year, but we’re full, and we have other young people that need this resource,” said Mina Koplin, current section manager of Salt Lake County Youth Services. “We’re turning young people away we don’t have enough resources and support for those children.”

When a young adult moves into a Milestone home, they get a bed and a dresser, that bed and dresser go with them when they leave the home to start a new life out on their own, along with all of the lessons learned while in Milestone.

The Milestone TLP provides housing for young adults ages 18 to 21 who have aged out of the foster care system or are at risk of homelessness. Along with housing for up to 18 months, the program offers a support system that helps with case management, life skills training, education and employment support, and mental health counseling. Milestone aims to help change lives and mindsets.

Milestone program graduate Maygan Martinez found herself living in her car and in shelters post-high school after not being able to stay with her foster family. Her hopelessness was something too many young people like her experience.  

She was overwhelmed by her situation and found herself scared and longing for answers. She was introduced to the Milestone program and given a room with a bed and a dresser and a chance.  Martinez took that chance and began looking forward to college and a year after leaving Milestone came back to work for the program.

“It’s more than a program it’s an opportunity. It’s an avenue to understand your worth as a person that is beyond what other people have labeled you as,” Martinez says. “There’s more to life than just surviving and there’s more to life than what others tell you there is. You create your own life you can create your own future.”

Rotary has stepped up to support Milestone and has pledged to raise $3.5 million to purchase and renovate 2 five-plex properties which will house an additional 16 young adults.

“It’s a project where we want to help raise necessary funds to find more housing but also be a support network so that they have all the resources they need to do whatever it is that they want to accomplish in life,” said Christian Deputy, Past President Salt Lake Rotary Club 24. “It’s pretty remarkable when a group of people stays focused on a problem there’s almost always a solution.”

Salt Lake City Rotary is made up of business leaders in the community looking for ways to understand the community and then serve in the community and Koplin says they couldn’t be happier with the partnership.

“Our relationship with Salt Lake City Rotary is so incredible and special,” Koplin said. “They have come with just open arms and this recognition that they want to help and so we feel so lucky to have a partnership with such an incredible organization that wants to help us make a change not only in our community but in the lives of these young people that we serve.”

Utah First Lady Abby Cox says this is an inspiring interpretation of what Utah is all about.

“I am profoundly inspired by the dedication of the Salt Lake Rotary Club and their unwavering commitment to our community’s youth,” First Lady Cox said. “Every young adult deserves stability and guidance, and it’s upon us as a community to ensure that those who’ve aged out of foster care are given the foundation for a promising future. This is Utah showing its heart, and I am filled with hope for what’s to come.”

With more than 120 young people aging out of the foster care system in Utah each year, especially in Salt Lake County, additional housing is crucial to address the increase in youth experiencing homelessness.  For more information about the Milestone TLP please visit the Salt Lake County Youth Services information page.