From Foster Care to HOPE, Brandon Continues to Follow His Plan for Success
by IAN NEVAREZ
“I’m still in touch with my foster family,” says Brandon Osborn. “I was actually just on the phone with one of my sisters. I try and keep in touch with my mother from day to day.”
Brandon is an outgoing 27 year old. This afternoon he stands tall and flashes a smile as he looks around his new apartment in East Long Beach. Six days ago he moved out on his own for the first time. He was able to financially accomplish this rite of passage due to the affordability of his new HOPE home.
It is difficult in today’s housing climate for low-income Californians like Brandon to find stable, affordable housing. As of September 2016, the median price for a one bedroom apartment in Long Beach was $2,155. At $10.50 minimum wage a renter would be required to work 154 hours a week to afford this rent and pay no more than 30% of their income on housing. Where a person can find affordable housing it is often not in a “healthy neighborhood,” defined as a safe community with adequate health promoting resources like parks, bike paths, healthy food retailers, recreation centers and activities.
The task of finding a home can be even more discouraging for people with developmental disabilities who face more daily challenges than their peers without disabilities. According to research, they are at a higher risk for a variety of medical conditions that can limit their ability to accomplish acts of daily living. They are more likely to be abused. They report having fewer people in their lives who offer emotional support. They have more difficulty accessing transportation. And finally, most are underemployed, despite their ability, desire, and willingness to work.
But Brandon is not the discouraging type.
He has worked hard over the years to get to where he is today, yet he knows he’s had plenty of help along the way. Brandon grew up in the foster care system. He’ll admit that he is one of the lucky ones. “I had the privilege to not be bounced around from foster home to foster home as a child,” he says, “I lived with the same family that took me in from 3 months old to 16.”
This doesn’t mean it was always easy for him. For a period during his childhood he began displaying negative and aggressive behavior toward other children. It almost forced him to be removed from the home where he had lived the entirety of his life.
He gives credit to his long time foster mother and father who worked with the system and fought to keep him in the family. In the end, they were successful, which meant so much to Brandon to be able to remain with the foster siblings he grew up with. “I owe my family a lot of gratitude. I am very humbled.”
As an adult now, he thinks back on his childhood growing up in the City of Carson. Besides the joy of hanging out in the park or playing basketball in front of his house, he remembers the challenges of school, doing homework, and reading. Brandon recalls how he had not always applied himself academically, and at times that got him into trouble—although he says that slowly changed. “I learned at a certain point that there was more to life than being a class clown.”
If school was a challenge his adoptive family seemed to be his solace. “There is no reason to put the whole foster label on them. If you’re with a family from being a baby, to a teenager, to an adult--that’s considered your family.”
His father had a particularly strong influence on his life, and Brandon’s success at maintaining gainful employment during his adulthood can be directly tied to this strong bond. Currently Brandon is a custodian at the Harbor Regional Center. He has held this job for the last 7 years. Brandon remembers the moment when he was 17 and his dad finally told him it was time to get a job. ”He’s like: I’m going to throw you out there, but I know you can do it.”
His dad always made sure to give him guidance prior to asking Brandon to take on new challenges. “He told me step by step, song by song, what to do in life. My dad is no longer with us, because he’s deceased, but he would want me to now achieve my greatness, catch it, go after it.”
Brandon is eternally positive. It’s contagious to be around. He wears a big smile on his face every time you see him. “Living on my own now, I’m excited about conquering the world. Everybody says, the world is a mean place, and it will knock you down, and it will keep you there if you let it. But I’m headstrong, I know what I want. I see where I’m going, and I have what it takes to make ends meet. I’m going to strive for what I want and just make everything happen. I follow a simple rule, ‘Plan your work, work your plan.’ That’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
He knows that living on his own comes with a lot of new responsibilities. “You have to be an adult first,” he says. “You have to put off buying a brand new pair of expensive Jordans [shoes]. Me, I opt for the cheaper Converse Chucks. Sometimes you just need to wait till your next paycheck to buy things you want, because bills have to come first.”
For now he is enjoying settling into his new home. All of his belongings have finally been moved in, and he is in the process of ordering a dresser and a bed frame. He proudly shows off his TV that was just set up in his bedroom. His clothes are hung neatly in the closet.
For Brandon, his life plan is coming together. He enjoys hanging out with friends and relatives. He is working full time and is now living on his own. He even glows with excitement when he talks about the future and starting to get more involved with his passion of wrestling.
It has been a long road for Brandon, but he is confident he’s on the right path. “For the people that have been there for me along the way, I just have to say thank you.”
This is a story of HOPE. We strive to empower our residents to achieve independence and follow their dreams. In Brandon we see the realization of that mission.
If you would like to sponsor an item for Brandon or other HOPE residents that will help turn their houses into homes, please consider making a contribution through our HOPE HELPS Gift Catalog.