Myron Wilson can still vividly recall the day five years ago when a young woman showed up at his church in McKinney looking for help. She was 18, alone, scared, and uncertain about her future after having recently aged out of foster care.
As a pastor, Wilson was used to having solutions to every problem. But this situation caught him off guard.
“My wife, Stacy, and I were pretty naive about these situations at the time. But one thing we couldn’t fathom was letting an 18-year-old girl leave and stay on the street,” Wilson said. “So we took her into our home. As time went by, we became aware of what these kids go through and how important it is to help them know what it’s like to be in a loving environment.
“God put this on my path, and I knew we had to make a difference.”
Wilson’s answer to the problem is Direction 61:3, a faith-based nonprofit organization registered with the state of Texas and licensed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to help men and women ages 15-24 transition from foster care into society as thriving adults.
Beyond providing a roof over their heads — Direction 61:3 currently has three residential homes and a fourth on the way — their holistic approach includes physical and emotional support, educational guidance, career preparation, life skills training, and how to build and establish life-changing relationships.
The organization was started in McKinney, and all the current donated homes are within city limits and overseen by a foster parent. This includes the FARM, a new property that will serve as the main office and provide three acres for a foster and aged-out community of homes and programming facilities for kids ages 15-24. With a variety of tiny homes to larger foster homes, the FARM has the potential to house up to 60 youth.
And the best part — they have expanded to Denton. In the months to come, they should close on their first home and have it operating by October. With further hope to open a second home after the first of the year.
“We look for investors who will buy a home and lease it to us for three years. We have people who help with maintenance at the home, and the idea is to keep these kids off the streets. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Wilson said. “We provide stability; we give them a place where they feel like they can belong and a sense of direction they simply didn’t have before.”
While many people instantly laud Direction 61:3 for its efforts and want to find ways to get involved, few fully comprehend the sobering statistics that warrant having this type of resource in the first place. The foster care system is designed as a temporary arrangement that gives children and teens a safe place to live, either because they no longer have parents, or their parents or primary caregivers are going through a crisis. The older a child gets, the harder it gets to find them a permanent home. So many of these kids bounce between several houses and struggle to maintain a strong support system around them.
Once they reach 18, they are legally considered an adult. As a result, many choose to leave foster care — unaware that they are woefully unprepared for the real world. Approximately 38 to 40% of the current homeless population are kids who recently aged out of foster care. And 80% of all sex traffic victims have been in foster care.
“I was a missionary overseas, and I fell in love with being able to work with young adults preparing them to transition out of a children’s village and back into their community,” said Jen Moore, Denton Area Director at Direction 61:3. “When I got back to the states, I realized there was also a need right here in our own backyard. And it couldn’t be more true.”
She added, “We circle around these men and women and continue to serve and care for them as they become young adults.”
Wilson agreed, adding that engaging foster youth in their teens can be invaluable toward establishing a positive life trajectory.
“Kids leave foster care because they’ve moved around too much and feel like they can care for themselves better than the state can,” he said. “But that is typically a false assumption. We want to expand our network so that we can help them thrive.”
Affordable and stable housing is paramount for youth aging out of the foster care system. Direction 61:3 provides such housing, allowing young adults the freedom to focus on necessary skills and education essential to becoming self-sufficient. The housing incorporates a comprehensive approach beyond simply a place to live and promotes a sense of home. Moving forward, they envision a network of housing facilities across North Texas, with specific attention given to communities where current housing support is unavailable.
“We have had the great privilege of watching kids transform before our eyes,” Wilson said. “It’s a great feeling.”
To learn more about Direction 61:3, including how to apply for housing, volunteer, donate financially, or become a foster parent, visit direction613.org or call 214-544-9055.