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November 26, 2021

Philly youth aging out of foster care get some relief with housing aid

The city will distribute 75 vouchers, equaling up to three years of aid, beginning on December 1

Government Housing
City Hall Vouchers Kate Frese/For PhillyVoice

The city's Office of Children and Families says that these vouchers make it possible to help mitigate the risk of homelessness in youth aging out of the foster care system.

A local effort to combat homelessness in youth aging out of the foster care system includes 75 housing vouchers funded by the U.S. Department of Urban Development, city officials said on Tuesday.

The $735,000 award will be available beginning December 1, and vouchers will cover up to 36 months of rental assistance. The mitigation efforts are made with aid from Methodist Services, a community organization that will provide additional mental and behavior health services, financial and employment assistance, and educational counseling, according to the city's Office of Children and Families.

The program will be administered by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the Department of Human Services, and the Office of Homelessness Services, and the city says that those working with at-risk youth can begin sending referrals to DHS to join the assistance program. 

"No young person who grows up in foster care should later experience homelessness," said Kimberly Ali, DHS commissioner. "As youth transition to adulthood and independent life, securing stable housing can be an obstacle. It is vital that we put these vouchers to the best use."

Each year, 20,000 children age out of the foster care system nationwide, and more than 30% of them experience homelessness after leaving the system, according to Generocity. Laura Morris, operations director at DHS, told KYW that up to 1,000 youth in the city qualify for the program and are in need of assistance. 

"It is not enough for what we need, but it is certainly a step in the right direction," she said. 

Direct funding efforts to combat the risks to those aging out of the system could help mitigate the risk of youth transitioning from foster care to street homelessness. 

The city provided a short list of requirements for those applying for aid, which include:

• Must have lived experience in the child welfare system at age 16 or older

• Must be aged 18-24

• Must have left the foster care system or be set to leave within 90 days

• Must be homeless or at risk of homelessness

"It's still a difficult time for many of our vulnerable neighbors, especially young people of color who have been hit hard by the challenges created by COVID-19," said OHS Director Liz Hersh. 

The Office of Homelessness Services compiled a report in 2018 to determine what homeless youth across Philadelphia need in terms of direct assistance, particularly as they age out of the system. The report found, overwhelmingly so, that the city does not have enough housing programs to support homeless youth aging out of the system. 

The report found that the city has a shortfall of 668 units of permanent supportive housing, 622 units of time-limited supportive housing, and 394 units of prevention assistance. 

These housing vouchers, which provide for up to three years of rental assistance and are specifically marked for youth at-risk for homelessness as they age out of the over-crowded foster system, can assist those young people in transitioning to permanent housing models.