New Demonstration for Youth Provides Up to Five Years of Housing and Self-Sufficiency Resources

To end homelessness among families, children, and youth, every community must have a coordinated and comprehensive response that includes child welfare as an integral part of the solution. HUD and HHS recently announced an exciting new opportunity for child welfare directors and local public housing agencies to work together to provide young people with housing and service supports for up to five years.

This demonstration – which extends the length of time that housing and services can be offered to young people from 18 months to five years – provides child welfare and housing agencies the opportunity to strengthen their partnerships around strategies to prevent and end homelessness among youth who have exited the foster care system and who lack the necessary resources and supports to maintain stable housing. For more information on how to apply for the demonstration, register for the webinar on January 28, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. EST.

Family Unification Program Vouchers Help Keep Families Together

For approximately 25 years, the Family Unification Program (FUP), has been a critical resource for the child welfare system to prevent family separation due to housing instability or lack of housing, as well as to prevent homelessness among youth who have exited foster care. Administered by public housing agencies in partnership with public child welfare agencies, the housing vouchers provided through FUP support families and youth to address their housing needs, providing a stable platform to access other supportive services that will help them sustain housing and increase access to opportunities for upward mobility.

Housing and supportive service resources are an integral part of the coordinated and comprehensive systems response to prevent and end youth homelessness outlined in the recent guidance released by USICH. FUP family vouchers have no time limit and are targeted to families involved with the child welfare system for whom the lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in either the imminent placement of the family’s children in out-of-home care OR the delay in discharge from out-of-home care. FUP vouchers can also be targeted to support youth between 18-21 years old who exited foster care after the age of 16 and who lack adequate housing.

Traditional FUP Vouchers for Youth Limited to 18 Months

Unlike family FUP vouchers, the FUP vouchers for youth are limited by statute to 18 months of housing assistance. For youth who receive a FUP voucher, child welfare agencies are responsible for providing supportive services for the duration of the youth’s participation in the FUP program (up to 18 months). Services are intended to support youth in the development of the kinds of skills that will help them to become self-sufficient as they transition to adulthood, including budget/money management, educational counseling, and job preparation.

Yet, for many young people, the 18 month time-limit can be a challenge. On the housing side, it may be hard to find landlords who are willing to lease a unit to a young person with limited skills and income. On the services side, the 18 month time-limit can be inadequate to build the skills necessary to become self-sufficient.

Unlike the services that are linked to the FUP voucher, community-based supports coordinated through HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program can be provided for the duration of the FSS contract, typically five years.

FSS Program Offers Alternative to 18-Month Supportive Services Limit

The FSS program can be paired with HUD housing choice vouchers to enable individuals and households to increase their earned income over time and to reduce the need for subsidized assistance. Services are community-based and provided through local partnerships. They include an escrow account, which is credited with any increases in the household’s rent as a result of increased earned income during participation in the program. Ending homelessness – including youth homelessness – requires connections to the kinds of supportive services that contribute to increasing self-sufficiency and access to earned income that can help individuals maintain stable housing.

To test the impact of an extended period of supportive service, HUD is utilizing congressional authorization to waive certain FUP requirements and create a demonstration project that will pair the FUP vouchers for youth with the FSS program. It is important to note that Congress has not authorized any new FUP vouchers; the demonstration will work with existing vouchers.

PHAs with an existing allocation of FUP vouchers who also operate an FSS program that can serve those on housing choice vouchers are eligible to apply to participate in this demonstration, extending the amount of time a youth can utilize their FUP voucher from 18 months to the duration of the FSS program contract (typically five years).

To learn more about the impact of the FSS program, read this article from a youth who exited foster care system at 18, and the role that the program played in helping her to transition to self-sufficiency.

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