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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Writing Letters of Support

Representative Michael Turner created the “Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act” as a direct result of meeting with Ohio foster care youth during our annual Three Days on the Hill trips to DC.

The Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance (Committee on Financial Services) is willing to include the bill within a hearing on Section 8 Vouchers. This hearing is tentatively scheduled for September 22, which is quickly approaching.

This is our opportunity -- as foster care youth, alumni and ally advocates -- to submit letters of support to Dan Hare, dan.hare@mail.house.gov  


The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act Proposed Legislation – Rep. Michael R. Turner (OH-10)

The Problem:
High rates of homelessness among foster care alumni leading to negative outcomes In FY2014, the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families estimated that around 22,000 youth across the country emancipated from foster care.

Because the government takes on the role of parent for these youth, and also determines when they age out of foster care, it is equally responsible for supplying adequate support as they make the overnight transition into adulthood so as to prevent government-triggered homelessness.
Homeless individuals face extraordinary difficulties across a broad range of life activities, and being homeless is associated with a host of negative outcomes, often straining America’s social safety net and financial resources.

Unfortunately, foster care alumni are one of the most vulnerable, high-risk groups when it comes to homelessness. Studies show that the sudden and permanent transition from foster care to adulthood is a key driver behind homelessness. Nearly one in five youth who were in foster care at age 17 reported that by age 19, they had experienced homelessness at some point during the previous two years.

A May 2014 Department of Housing and Urban Development analysis concluded that, “[c]urrent research on the outcomes of youth aging out of foster care points to a real need for policy and programs to assist them in maintaining housing. . . .” After all, aging out of foster care should not mean aging into homelessness.

The Solution: The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act
The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act presents a straightforward approach that will help break this cycle of homelessness and negative outcomes for foster care alumni, offering them enhanced opportunities to become successful, productive members of society. Essentially, the bill prioritizes minors who are aging out of foster care, and at risk of homelessness, when furnishing housing assistance.

This legislation uses a two-pronged approach that requires no new spending:

1. Early application: Minors will be able to apply for housing assistance upon reaching 16 years of age, prior to aging out of foster care.

2. Priority Preference: When a minor reaches the point 6 months prior to aging out of foster care, he/she will automatically receive a priority preference over other applicants for housing assistance, allowing the minor aging out of foster care to jump to the front of the waitlist.

The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act requires that those receiving assistance hold up their end of this bargain by working to build their future. Participating foster alumni must demonstrate that they are actively working, pursuing further education, or engaged in workforce development or vocational training. To encourage attainment of self-sufficiency within a reasonable time period and to free up housing assistance for the new group of foster youth that ages out each year, housing assistance under this Act phases out upon reaching age 25.

Bottom Line: Given the parental role the government plays in foster youths’ lives, it has an obligation to prevent government-triggered homelessness within this vulnerable population. Foster care alumni with stable housing and a legitimate chance to establish themselves as they transition into adulthood are more likely to become successful, independent citizens.

Please send letters of support for Rep. Turner’s bill to Dan Hare, on Rep. Turner’s staff, via e-mail at dan.hare@mail.house.gov

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