BY Robert Davis|
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved an additional $1 million in grant funding to support youths aging out of foster care and at-risk of experiencing homelessness.
The grants were awarded to 26 public housing authorities (PHA) in 20 states in mid-December. They follow a September funding round for HUD’s Foster Youth to Independence Initiative (FYI). The agency disbursed more than $14 million in grants to 18 PHAs in 10 states for a similar purpose.
The PHAs that received the grants were each chosen because they:
“Every young person deserves the opportunity to live with housing stability,” said Danielle Bastarache, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Housing and Voucher Programs. “HUD’s FYI has made that a reality for hundreds of youths by helping to provide access to housing for those who are aging out of foster care.”
Earlier this year, HUD released a four-year evaluation of its programs that support youth experiencing homelessness to Congress. The report identified several challenges many continuums of care (COC) face when serving this group.
For example, the report said all the COCs it surveyed struggled to identify youth experiencing homelessness, provide coordinated entry services, and many did not have enough youth-specific shelter spaces. Many youths also reported that the service system was too complex to navigate on their own and that the services they do receive are inefficient.
On the other side, the report said the most effective way to address youth homelessness is through coordinated community responses dedicated to addressing the issue. Some examples include rapid re-housing programs and host homes, where volunteers take in a youth-at-risk of experiencing homelessness.
Two months after the report was published, the agency approved more than $290 million in grants for programs that address youth homelessness. More than half of the funds went to local authorities to fund rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, and transitional housing projects. These funds can also be used to support innovative programs such as host homes for foster youth who have aged out.
The rest of the funding will go to HUD’s regional partners to fund new housing construction and wrap-around services. These entities must also develop comprehensive plans to end youth homelessness, which federal authorities will evaluate on a rolling basis.
While the additional $1 million in funding that HUD approved may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to other programs, some PHAs say the dollars can be life-changing for some youths.
Kerry Coughlin, the communications director for the Seattle Housing Authority, which received more than $250,000 from HUD during the funding round, told Invisible People that the funds will support an additional 75 housing vouchers for at-risk youths between 18 and 24-years-old.
The need for these vouchers is great, Coughlin said. She added it is tough to track how many of the 8,000-plus youths in Washington State’s foster care system turn 18 every year.
The vouchers also provide at-risk youths who are identified as “safe, stable housing instead of leaving foster care for life on the streets,” Coughlin added.
According to estimates from the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL), more than 4.2 million youths are experiencing homelessness across the country. NCSL stated at least 700,000 of these youths are classified as “unaccompanied minors”. This means they are not part of a family unit and are not experiencing homelessness with a parent or guardian.
Most youths who end up experiencing homelessness also report having mental health issues. More than half of these youth report involvement with the juvenile detention system before experiencing homelessness. Another one-third have simply aged out of the foster care system.
Youth experiencing homelessness or runways also face multiple threats such as food insecurity, developing substance abuse disorders, and physical victimization.
Because of this, NCSL states addressing the consequences of youth homelessness requires “coordination across the education, child welfare, juvenile justice, health and human services systems.”
The pandemic proved that we need to rethink housing in the U.S. It also showed that aid programs work when agencies and service organizations have sufficient funds and clear guidance on spending aid dollars.
Contact your representatives and tell them you support bolstering programs that support youths aging out of the foster care system. These programs have proven effective at keeping young people housed, which is the first step to ending homelessness.
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