The Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families (ACF) partnered with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to hold a webinar detailing the Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) program and how it can be utilized to benefit eligible youth experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness. Kimberly Waller, Associate Commissioner for ACF’s Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), explained that the FYSB funds the Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) program, which provides grants for services that prevent homelessness or otherwise support at-risk youth. RHY grants are the funding source for the FYI program as Ryan Jones, the director for the housing voucher management and operations division of HUD, went on to describe.

This program began in 2019 and provides rental assistance and other supports both to youth who have already exited foster care and those preparing to exit foster care. HUD’s Senior Housing Program Specialist Celia Carpentier described FYI as an extension of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. FYI vouchers are administered by local public housing agencies (PHAs) who have partnered with public child welfare agencies (PCWAs). The rental assistance is guaranteed for 36 months, but meeting additional qualifications can allow for 24 additional months. Youth eligible for this program are between the ages of 18 and 24, have left foster care or are leaving within 90 days, are currently homeless or at-risk of homelessness, and meet HUD’s HCV eligibility requirements. PCWAs identify eligible youth, refer youth to the program, certify eligibility, prioritize potential participants based on need, and provide or secure support for 36 months. PHAs accept referrals, administer waiting lists, determine HCV eligibility, and issue and administer vouchers. These agencies also offer participants optional, but strongly encouraged, support programs.

Finally, HUD Housing Program Specialist Michelle Daniels described the current major challenge impacting FYI as low utilization. Only 42.4% of vouchers administered to PCWA/PHA partnerships are leased—most likely due to difficulties in creating and maintaining partnerships, lack of funding for support services, lack of affordable housing units, and high turnover of vouchers.

By Bayley Levine, Policy Intern