Housing for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care, published by HUD, provides an overview of the housing challenges facing youth aging out of the foster care system. Not surprisingly, overall, research indicates that foster youth aging out of the system frequently face housing instability and homelessness due to lack of programmatic and financial support to assist them during their transition into adulthood.
Elevated levels of housing mobility- moving from one temporary housing situation to another- characterize the experiences of many youth aging out of the foster care system.
Key findings include:
Estimates of homelessness among young adults vary from 11% to 36%;
Housing instability remains a major issue, with studies suggesting that youth often couch surf or double up to make ends meet; and
Between 25% and 50% of youth who age out of foster care live in temporary, shared housing situations.
Another body of literature examines the barriers preventing youth from finding stable, safe and affordable housing. Barriers include:
A lack of education and a lack of preparation for entering the labor force are two factors that are often cited as barriers;
Young adults aging out of foster care lack the assets needed for a security deposit or first and last months’ rent on a unit; and
Landlords may be reluctant to rent to young people lacking a history of employment, a co-signer or a decent credit score.
The studies identify gaps in the system including:
A need for stronger support services for youth seeking housing for the first time;
Many of the programs that currently exist to help foster care youth transition to adulthood are not rigorously evaluated;
Further research is needed to improve the implementation and design of such programs; and
Lack of housing subsidies is also an issue for those aging out of foster care.
Funding, primarily through the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program and HUD’s Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers, is extremely limited and not all young people in need of assistance are able to receive help.
The Chafee program, authorized by the 1999 Foster Care Independence Act, provides funding to the states that can be used to promote education, employment and housing to assist foster care youth transitioning to adulthood. Up to 30% of Chafee funds can be spent on housing subsidies.
FUP provides Housing Choice Vouchers to former foster youth ages 18 to 21, but these vouchers are time-limited, adding another challenge. With the availability of housing assistance nationwide extremely limited, young adults exiting foster care have limited stable and affordable housing options available to them. Congress has not authorized new FUP vouchers since FY10.