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HUD program helping thousands of homeless foster youth imperiled if Biden cuts

Created by HUD Secretary Ben Carson, the Foster Youth to Independence program gives housing vouchers to thousands of youth who become adults but lack the support services to transition to stabilized adulthood.

Updated: January 19, 2021 - 12:17pm

Thousands of teenagers who age out of the foster care system at 18 could end up homeless, in life-threatening situations, or even worse if a program started by the Trump administration's Department of Housing & Urban Development is canceled by the incoming Biden administration.

HUD's Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) program, created by HUD Secretary Ben Carson, gives housing vouchers to the thousands of youth who become adults but lack the support they need to transition to stabilized adulthood.

Since the initiative was launched in June 2019, HUD reports 34 states and 107 Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) have received FYI funding, totaling over $8.6 million in funds to prevent or end homelessness among young adults under the age of 25 who are in, or have recently left, the foster care system without a home to go to. To date, HUD reports that more than 1,000 former foster youth have benefited from an FYI voucher.

"It's really at a time in their lives, where they're right at the precipice of going the right way or the wrong way, and they don't have any support," Carson said in an interview with "Just the News AM" television program.

Carson said about 20,000 youth age out of the foster care system each year, and about a quarter of them end up homeless. 

"Anybody listening, you think back to when you were 18," Carson said. "If where all of a sudden you were on your own with no support, what would you have done? And so many people were ending up in very, very bad situations. Some of those situations being actually life-threatening, and some of them which actually did cost people their lives. And you know that's not something that a compassionate society allows to happen."

Carson said the foster care system's lack of support services for foster care children aging out "wasn't that anybody was being particularly cruel, they just didn't really think about it."

It took a group of young people who were in that situation themselves, Carson said, to present their case to HUD and request assistance. Within just four months, Carson said, HUD was able to develop the FYI program, which included not just housing support but also assistance in gaining education, employment and healthcare. 

"A whole host of things that they normally would not have access to if they were on their own, but they would have access to, if they had a family," Carson said.

"I always say at HUD, we have the ugliest building but the best people," Carson said. "We've been able to get a lot of things done fairly quickly, largely because the place has been transformed." 

Carson said when he arrived at HUD in 2017 that there had been no CFO at HUD "for almost a decade, and things were in shambles, and it was very difficult to get anything done because our underlying financials were in such a mess." 

Carson said HUD saw compelling reforms through an Integrity Task Force across all HUD's different offices to improve accountability.

"Making people responsible for what they did, the efficiency increased enormously," Carson said. "And that's why you don't hear those strange stories about malfeasance at HUD anymore. And I hope that continues."

The Biden administration transition press office did not respond to comment from Just the News about plans for the FYI program. President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) as incoming HUD secretary. Fudge did not respond to a request from Just the News.

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