Cleveland, OH -- Kevinee Gilmore’s “Foster Share House” was being renovated and was nearly ready for its new occupants—four young women who grew up in foster care. That’s when the house was robbed.
“Thieves broke the lockbox, took the key and cleaned out the house,” Gilmore said. “They took $25,000 worth of drywall, electrical copper, the bathroom toilet and vanity… everything including the wood flooring. I had canceled the insurance to save money for the renovation since no one lived there yet. Now all our plans have come to a grinding halt.”
In late 2015, Gilmore gained some notoriety when she began taking photos with celebrities holding a sign that reads “#FosterCare.” The idea came while attending the BGC Charity Day in NYC, an event heavily attended by celebrities, which commemorates lives lost on 9/11.
“I figured why should I just take selfies with celebrities? I’ll turn this into an opportunity to raise awareness for foster care. It was a little bit of a joke in the beginning, but it really caught on,” Gilmore laughed. She has since taken photos with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Stevie Wonder and Magic Johnson, among many others.
To raise funds to restart the Foster Share House renovation, Kevinee will capitalize on the success of the hashtag campaign by printing “#FosterCare” on t-shirts and mugs for sale. To do so, Gilmore has teamed up with DoingGood.works, a California social enterprise that creates and sells branded materials to raise money for foster care initiatives. Proceeds will go toward the renovation of Foster Share House so it can open as soon as possible for the new tenants.
The goal is to raise $25,000 by June 30. The general public may purchase #FosterCare products or make a general GoFundMe donation at Hashtagfostercare.org.
During the month of May, Kevinee will encourage other supporters to take selfie photos holding a sign that reads #FosterCare and post to Instagram and Twitter using #FosterCare to show support for youth.
Foster Share House is a multifamily home located in the Larchmere section of Cleveland that Gilmore purchased for the express purpose of renting to former foster youth. Gilmore is a former foster youth turned advocate who is dedicated to helping youth overcome the hardships they face when they leave the foster care system at age 18... Hardships that often result in homelessness, joblessness and incarceration.
After graduating from Cleveland State with a social work degree, Gilmore was able to purchase her first home, a multifamily in the St. Clair Superior district. She rented the second apartment to a former foster youth who was also a student at Cleveland State. Gilmore soon became an informal mentor to her tenant helping him with food, transportation and general guidance. This sparked an idea…why not open more homes that include a “buddy system” for other kids who grew up in foster care?
“When foster children leave the system they get first dibs on public housing, but let’s face it, who really escapes the projects?” Gilmore shared candidly. “In a good neighborhood, no one wants to rent to an 18-year-old let alone a former foster youth. I see all these abandoned homes around Cleveland and my vision is to create a community open many homes to provide decent housing and much-needed support for a lot of kids.”
All four tenants were set to move into Foster Share House this June, each having an individual apartment. One of the older girls, a student at Cleveland State, was to serve as liaison to assist the others. Two of the other girls are enrolled as freshman at Cleveland State, and the fourth has a job and is expecting a child. Gilmore had lined up medical care, job shadowing days and even job opportunities with local businesses for these girls.
“Living in the dorms doesn’t solve the housing problem because when the dorms shut down for holiday breaks those without families essentially become homeless. I dreaded college breaks because I had to live in my car until school resumed,” Gilmore explained.
According to Ohio Fostering Connections, each year more than 1,000 Ohio youth leave the foster care system at age 18 when they are no longer eligible for services.
“A permanent place to live means stability, which is something few of us get in foster care. We were so close to completion on Foster Share House. I’m just not going to give up on these kids or my dream,” said Gilmore.