LORAIN, Ohio — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson knows some of the best ideas often come not from the top down but from the bottom up. And so it was a little over a year ago when they heard at HUD from a group of young people who had recently aged out of foster care.
"They told us how horrible it was, the age out and then all of a sudden they've got no support and in many cases no place to live," Carson said.
He said one in four will become homeless within four years of leaving foster care. In an effort to find something to help, they came up with the FYI or Foster Youth to Independence program. A program that provides housing vouchers and support services to those between 18 and 24 who are falling between the cracks. This program that has so far just under 700 young adults serves as a safety net.
"Our people were so impressed that they put together this program in four months, within four months the first vouchers were given out," Carson told News 5. "These are tenant protection vouchers that allow these young people to actually be able to afford a place to live, a place to call their own."
"Also they provide wrap-around services so it really depends on what that individual needs. Some of them for instance haven't finished high school, so we'll get them involved in a GED program, some need a higher level of training, some have medical issues. It really kind of depends on what the individual needs to provide wrap-around services that really will put them on a trajectory towards success. We don't want to just do patchwork, we want to set these people up as self-sufficient in the long run and give them the same kind of support that a family might give them if they were from a family."
In its early stages the program has helped nearly 700 people so far with the city of Lorain last week receiving $12,772 in vouchers or enough to help two people make the transition.
"That's handled through the housing authority in the area where they live in conjunction with the child welfare organization who help to select the individuals," he said of the process for selecting the recipients.
"About 20,000 people age out of foster care every single year and about a quarter of them within the ensuing four years will become homeless and when that happens all kinds of things begin to occur. Getting trapped into sex work, just drugs, and the whole nine yards and that's why it's so urgent that we deal with these young people," he said.