HUD launches youth anti-homelessness fight with regional kickoff | VailDaily.com

HUD launches youth anti-homelessness fight with regional kickoff

Foster Youth Independence to help former foster youth with housing costs

Several Housing and Urban Development officials were in the region to kick off the Foster Youth Independence initiative, a program to help provide stable housing for youth aging out of foster care as they enter the adult world. The regional program is the first of its kind in the country. Evelyn Lim, first row second from left, is HUD's regional administrator.
Randy Wyrick | randy@vaildaily.com

Thousands of foster kids who age out of the program end up homeless each year, but a new federal initiative is designed to help them make the transition by helping youth afford stable housing.

The nationwide Foster Youth Independence initiative, a new Housing and Urban Development program, is designed to help youth aging out of foster care transition into independence by helping offset some of their housing costs. The Garfield County Housing Authority is one of the first two in the country to take on the program.

“About 20,000 youth age out of foster care each year,” Evelyn Lim, HUD regional administrator said in an announcement earlier this week.

Of those 20,000, 25% will be homeless during their first four years on their own, estimates the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. A much higher percentage will be “precariously housed,” Lim said.

K.T. Gazunis, executive director of the Garfield County Housing Authority, thanked the HUD staff who made the trip to Western Colorado, as well as HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who grew up in public housing and became a brain surgeon at Johns Hopkins.

“Dr. Ben Carson is an inspiration to us all,” Gazunis said. “I can’t think of a better role model both us and the people we serve.”

Easing a tough transition

Entering adulthood can be tough for anyone, but especially for youth transitioning out of foster care, said Mary Baydarian, with Garfield County’s Health and Human Services department.

The cost of housing is an issue for most people in the area, Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.

“It can be especially tough for young people who might not have a network of support. This program can help provide that support, Jankovsky said.

Faster than the speed of government

HUD announced the program at the end of July and was in Glenwood Springs Monday morning to issue some of the country’s first vouchers — possibly a record, Lim said.

“Usually when you talk about ‘the speed of government’ it’s a pejorative statement,” Lim said.

In creating the FYI program, HUD enlisted youth who had experienced homelessness to talk to them about what works and what doesn’t. That helped national policy leaders understand the size of the issue and that more needed to be done, Lim said.

“FYI is a critical investment in the future of our youth to prevent young people in our communities from being forced into life on the streets or into shelters, and placing them on a path to success. It also provides them with the tools and support they need to reach their potential,” Lim said. “Under HUD Secretary Carson, HUD is proud to be committed to ending homelessness, especially among the youth in our communities.”