The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is launching a voucher program for up to 25 greater Portland youth who are aging out of the foster care system.
The program is part of a national initiative called the “Foster Youth to Independence Initiative” that will provide Tenant Protection Vouchers to at-risk youth. In Maine the program will partner with Portland Housing Authority and local social services.
At a press conference in Portland Friday, Leah McDonald, teen services program director at Preble Street, said preventing homelessness will help young people avoid future life traumas.
“When you don't have a stable place to stay, even if you're staying in an emergency shelter, that does not allow for the kind of stability that any human, and especially young people, need to build those life skills," McDonald says.
Portland Housing Authority Executive Director Mark Adelson says that the program offers potential long-term benefits.
“Preventing young people from falling into homelessness with a home and support services is certainly a lot more effective than trying to help them after the fact,”says Adelson.
Adelson said he looks forward to getting more details from HUD about implementing the program.
According to HUD's initial announcement of the initiative last week, individuals seeking housing vouchers will need to meet specific requirements. They will have to be between 18 and 24 years old, have left or plan to leave foster care within 90 days, and be homeless or at risk of being homeless.
HUD’s New England Regional Administrator David Tille says the new program is intended to address statistics indicating that 25-30% of youth aging out of the foster care system are at risk of homelessness.
“These same young people face a number of barriers to accessing housing assistance and this is simply unacceptable,” said Tille.
HUD released a notice of the program late last week that outlines the program’s goals. But the agency has not yet indicated additional details, such as funding for the program and how the vouchers will be distributed locally.
Originally published 1:37 p.m. August 3, 2019