Former foster youth are in critical need of housing assistance. Data recently reported by states to the National Youth in Transition Database reveals that youth who spend their teenage years in foster care are at significant risk of homelessness, with 30% of the youth who transition out of foster care experiencing homelessness by the age of 21. And the risk of homelessness is part of a broader array of challenges faced by youth as they transition from the foster care system to independent living.

At the same time, housing assistance for former foster youth is drastically underfunded. Of the patchwork of federal-state programs that potentially provide such assistance, many do not make housing their exclusive focus and are not required to spend any of their funds on housing. And even when such benefits are available to eligible youth, they are exceedingly difficult to access and maintain. In fact, Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA) has observed that every stage of the application process poses substantial obstacles, which are often compounded by real world friction and limitations.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a request for public comment on certain provisions of the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act (“FSHO”) Amendments. FFCA strongly urges the Department to implement the FSHO Amendments in a manner that maximizes access to housing benefits for former foster youth.

In their comment, written with support from Democracy Forward, FFCA urged the Department to implement the FSHO Amendments in a manner that maximizes access to vouchers under the Family Unification Program for youth and the Foster Youth Initiative (collectively referred to as FUPY/ FYI vouchers). FFCA’s comment concludes:

“While FFCA understands that tying housing benefits to education and work requirements will help ensure that former foster youth are developing the skills they need to live independently, these requirements should be flexible and should reflect the reality that former foster youth face numerous obstacles and challenges without the resources and support provided to their non-foster youth peers. Rather than helping youth to overcome these obstacles, imposing further rigid requirements would only increase their risk of housing instability and homelessness.”

Read the entire comment here.