By Sara Tiano
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have called on the federal government to provide more housing security to teens and young adults aging out of foster care.
In a letter to Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, the senators wrote that they wanted to call attention to delays in the delivery of housing vouchers through the Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) program, which connects youth aging out of care with public housing benefits.
“We have heard from individuals who have encountered significant barriers and delays to securing FYI housing vouchers, and we urge you to ensure housing resources are delivered to transition-aged youth in an accessible and timely manner,” Klobuchar and Collins wrote.
The Foster Youth to Independence initiative provides housing assistance to youth between the ages of 18 and 24 who have left or are leaving foster care and are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The program provides three years of housing benefits.
The senators shared the story of a Connecticut youth named Anna to illustrate the barriers to accessing this lifeline benefit, and the consequences of not being able to get it.
Anna left foster care in 2019 and moved into a college dorm. But when the coronavirus pandemic shut down many dorms — including Anna’s — during her sophomore year, she was forced to “couch surf” with friends. When she finally learned she was eligible for the FYI program, it took six months for her voucher to be issued, another three before she found a landlord who would accept it, and then several more weeks for the necessary inspections to take place.
The senators note that 1 in 5 foster youth age out directly into homelessness, and cite HUD’s own data that between another quarter to half of former foster youth are unstably housed.
Klobuchar and Collins request that HUD provide updates on its initiatives to increase housing security for youth aging out of care within the next two years as well as those who have done so since 2019. They also requested an update on what the department is doing to ensure youth are informed of the housing benefits available to them when they age out or experience housing disruptions.