'Step in the right direction': Philly gets federal housing aid for youth aging out of foster care

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Young people aging out of foster care are among the most vulnerable to becoming homeless. An award from the ​​United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will help Philadelphia target that group for help.

Deputy Mayor Cynthia Figueroa says some youth manage to get by when they first leave the child welfare system, but it’s a struggle.

"We have kids who have been couch surfing or have maybe been out of the system for a year or two and are now finding it difficult to be properly housed," Figueroa said.

HUD's "Fostering Youth to Independence" has awarded Philadelphia 75 vouchers, each good for three years of housing.

The National Foster Youth Institute estimates that 20% of foster youth become homeless as soon as they leave the system, and 25% become homeless within four years.

These housing vouchers are an essential form of aid. Laura Morris of the city's Department of Human Services (DHS) says there are about 1,000 youth who need this kind of assistance in Philadelphia, so every little bit helps.

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

The program also includes supports such as employment, education and child care services, Morris says.

"Just so their transition after three years can go into another consistent housing situation," she said.

"It means a lot to the department that we can have an opportunity for youth, to help them launch the next phase of their life, so it’s not just a crisis-oriented process for them, but that they can think about long-term education goals or getting into a trade."

People between the ages of 18 and 24, who have left or are about to leave the child welfare system, are eligible. DHS hopes to begin awarding the vouchers next week.

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