That was before he met a young woman who had aged out of the foster care system and was living in her van.
Wilson and his wife brought the woman into their home and tried to help her secure a job. But she could not cope with the environment, Wilson said, and she ended up leaving.
Following this, Wilson learned from someone working with foster and homeless people that about 40% of the homeless population in North Texas are people who have come out of foster care. He said it was hard to believe this was happening in his own community.
“We live in nice homes. We have all types of medical facilities and shopping facilities and restaurants, and there’s no reason that we should have homeless teenagers in this part of the world. It just didn’t make sense,” Wilson said. “The dollars are there. The resources are there to make a difference. It’s just a matter of getting the awareness raised and people understanding that there’s a need.”
Wilson recognized a need to aid foster youth in their teens and early 20s who were still in the foster system or were old enough to choose to leave it and were in a period of transition.
In 2017, Direction61:3 officially emerged, the result of Wilson’s efforts to create a safe community for foster youth ages 16-22.
Wilson’s goal is to create a network of housing facilities where foster youth can stay with a team committed to helping them. The young people stay with house parents in the home and are supported by mentors and other members of the Direction61:3 network. In this way, the youths can experience a sense of home at several tiers—not just from each other, but from a support system as well.
Direction61:3 currently has two homes in operation: one for foster girls and another for pregnant foster girls and their children. Wilson said he hopes to open his first home for boys in the spring.
“The vision and the hope is a six-year trajectory at the max—they come to us at different ages—but to help them have some direction and help them have a sense of belonging,” Wilson said. “What we try to do is give them a sense of belonging on multiple levels. Let them find people that they draw close to individually as well as well as a group of people.”