This post is authored by Kevin Solarte, Senior Program Manager for Federal Technical Assistance at the Corporation for Supportive Housing.
Ending homelessness means so much more than just serving the people who are already in the homelessness system. It also means identifying people who are most at risk of becoming homeless and collaborating within the systems that already serve them.
Child welfare is one such system. Far too many individuals age out of foster care each year, without the supports to help them successfully live independently.
But recently, the advocacy of young people with lived experience from ACTION OHIO, with the support the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, has led to a new housing initiative from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
FYI Tenant Protection Vouchers: What They Are and How to Apply
Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) offers housing and support services to young people who have experienced the child welfare system to help them successfully transition to adulthood.
To qualify for FYI Tenant Protection Vouchers (TPV), Public Housing Authorities that do NOT administer the Family Unification Program must first form a partnership with their local public child welfare agency. This will enable them to request up to 25 TPVs per fiscal year for youth 18-24 who have a child welfare history and are at-risk-of or are experiencing homelessness.
The voucher may be utilized for up to 36 months and the referring public child welfare agency is required to provide or secure up to 36 months of voluntary supportive services like basic life skills support, education and employment support, and housing counseling. It is important to note that engaging in services is NOT a condition of retaining the housing voucher.
The Importance of CoC Partnerships
Partnerships are key in FYI. The local Continuum of Care (CoC) can play a critical role in utilizing coordinated entry systems to identify young people at-risk-of or experiencing homelessness and connecting them to the child welfare agency and Public Housing Authority for an FYI referral. Notice PIH 2019-20 strongly encourages including the CoC in the FYI partnership.
Through the CoC partnership, FYI can offer a permanent housing solution using mainstream housing dollars for eligible young people identified by the homeless response system who are currently experiencing or at high risk of homelessness and who may no longer be connected to the child welfare system. Note that FYI eligibility includes young people who are unsafely doubled up or couch surfing.
FYI offers new opportunities for CoCs as they may also consider pairing CoC funded youth homelessness projects with FYI. For example, a CoC may fund a youth rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing project, and for those young people who meet the eligibility for both the CoC funded project and FYI, the supportive services could be offered through the CoC project and the housing assistance could be offered through FYI, for up to 36 months.
This partnership can assist communities in serving youth who may have higher supportive services needs than those that can be met by the services offered through FYI, including those young people who may need mental health or substance use services made available to them. The partnership can also assist in stretching CoC housing assistance dollars further to end the experience of homelessness for more young people throughout the community.
There is no due date on requesting TPVs through FYI. Your local public housing authority can begin requesting them for individual eligible youth as soon as it has a partnership agreement in place with the public child welfare agency and the child welfare agency begins referring eligible youth to the public housing authority.