Sunday, December 14, 2008

Housing After Foster Care

One in five former foster children report experiencing homelessness after "aging out" of foster care.

Investing in housing programs for young people between 18-25 years old is an opportunity to offer hope and assistance to young people during the "launching period" of their lives.

It is also a financially savvy front-end investment.

How would you prefer that your tax dollars be spent?
Wouldn't you rather invest in these 25,000 young people aging out of foster care each year before they enter into situations of chronic homelessness, unwed pregnancy, unemployment and incarceration?

Doesn't it make more sense to intervene during their late-teens and early-20s, a time when young people have an open mind, high level of energy and are actively engaged in the process of directing their future lives?

Or would we rather wait now, and pay later? Left unchecked, the cycle will continue: 1 in 4 homeless adults is a former foster child.

Homeless shelters created for adults are not the answer
Young adults differ from the adult homeless population, because they have unique developmental needs. With encouraging support and timely resources, it is possible to empower young people and build them into future leaders.

Investing in a brighter future
Here are some examples of how states provide specialized services to effectively support young people in acquiring stable housing:

1. California:
- First Place Fund for Youth provides two-bedroom apartments in San Francisco, financial assistance to pay housing start-up costs, and monthly rental subsidies.

- Larkin Street Youth Services’ LEASE program has scattered site apartments for youth who have emancipated from San Francisco's foster care system.

- Orangewood Children's Foundation in Los Angeles has two residential apartment complexes with an on-site residential counselor. Youth pay rent on a sliding scale, according to their financial ability.

2. Colorado uses FUP funds to provide housing assistance to youth for a maximum of 18 months. The young person must be between the ages of 18‐21, have spent time in foster care on or after their 16th birthday and currently lack adequate housing.

3. Connecticut has a Community Housing Assistance Program that provides either site-based or scattered site apartments for youth age 17-21 who are transitioning out of foster care and into independent living. They require youth to account for forty productive hours per week, e.g. time devoted to classes, study, training, part-time work, internships, volunteer work, apprenticeships or counseling.

4. Delaware provides Life Lines Housing Programs which allow youth to stay in the program for 18 months to three years, depending upon their job status or educational enrollment status.

5. Illinois developed a Youth Housing Assistance Program that uses Chafee funding to provide housing assistance to young people in and from foster care between the ages of 17 - 21.

6. New Jersey provides a Shared Living Residence Rental Housing Program to acquire land, build housing or rehabilitate existing housing.

7. New York City Housing Authority offers a Section 8 Priority Code for young people aging out of the foster care system. This program provides Section 8 vouchers or public housing units.

8. North Carolina offers Transitional Housing Funds of up to $1,500 per year to help with room and board expenses.

9. Ohio has 88 counties - only three of which have developed youth housing programs:

- Daybreak's Milestones program for young people ages 17-21 provides housing, counseling, educational support and tutoring, employment-readiness and life skills training and two years of follow up.

- Lighthouse Youth Services provides a tiered housing system that allows room for temporary setbacks as young people transition to the adult world.

- Starr Commonwealth provides an independent living program called MyPlace, designed to help ease the transition to adulthood. Young people, ages 16 to 18, live on their own in one of 16 furnished apartments, and are provided with adult support.

10. Vermont offers a Housing Support Program for young people between the ages of 18-22. Qualifying youth receive a grant of up to $5,000 to cover housing and related expenses. They may also receive supplemental funds for college textbooks and lab fees.

As a New Year's Resolution, please think about how you can replicate one or more of these programs in your state....

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Thought you might be interested to know that our Obama group met this weekend as part of Obama 2.0 Change in America. It was our first organization meeting, and we were asked by the campaign to do service, and decided on two projects - collecting food for a local foodbank and helping out groups that help foster kids after they leave the system. Hopefully we are going to help one of them for our service day Jan 19th, a day of national service.

I blogged about it here -
Thats a good thing to remind people! I think there should also be more shelters for young people between the ages of 18-23 or so who re not necessarily aging out of foster care. My brother and I were homeless at the age of 17 and were in an adult shelter. My brother had been in foster care but was adopted when he was 7, so there was no services for him. He started hanging out with adult drug addicts, eventually helped one of them steal a car from a dealership, went to jail, got out, and was addicted to crack and heroine. Now he's in prison again. I did a little better... after a year on the streets, I found an independent living program for homeless girls, moved to the town where it was in and spent some time in the adult shelter there so I would qualify for it, and it helped me a lot. The sad thing was, the orgnization that ran that program that ran that girls' shelter place used to have one for boys too... but they shut it down... because they said the boys were too messy! Isn't that bogus?

That is a great point about homeless young people in general.

Issues like the ones you mentioned are why I volunteer with my state's statewide homeless youth empowerment program, including assisting with their annual conferences.

The National Network for Youth encourages professionals to give homeless youth a voice.

Their website has great information if you and your brother ever want to advocate for reform in your state:

If you choose to pursue this option, please let me know, and I can get you in touch with other resources as well.
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