Youth aging out of foster care are at high risk for experiencing homelessness during the transition to adulthood. As many as 25% of foster youth will experience homelessness within 4 years of aging out and a history of foster care correlates with experiencing homelessness at an earlier age and for a longer period of time. Of the 27,342 foster youth who shared their needs and experiences with TOU in 2020, 14.7% were experiencing homelessness.
As a result of the efforts of ACTION Ohio and other child welfare advocates, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) established the Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) Initiative in 2019, providing tenant protection vouchers for 36 months of “on demand” rental assistance for foster youth who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. In January 2021, HUD announced $20 million in new funding for FYI vouchers. But, the process for youth to obtain this resource is complicated and time consuming, requiring a formal agreement between local-level public housing and child welfare agencies.
Think of Us Senior Fellow, Jamole Callahan worked in partnership with state child welfare agencies and public housing authorities, the Children’s Bureau, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to streamline the processes for youth to obtain FYI vouchers and help them achieve housing stability. TOU leveraged knowledge of federal policy and systems to build relationships with local and state systems and take practical steps to directly support youth, including eligibility research, connecting them to their local housing authority, helping them complete applications, identifying fitting housing options, obtaining essential documents, three-way calling with relevant parties, and more, to improve access to services.
The outcome of TOU efforts included:
Congress passed the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities (FSHO) amendments as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which allows for foster youth to receive up to an additional 24 months of voucher assistance, for a maximum of 60 months of voucher assistance.
TOU staff working on the project have lived experience in foster care.