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DC Line/Street Sense: Young people leaving foster care face homelessness. DC isn’t giving them available vouchers

April 17, 2023

DC Line writer, Annemarie Cuccia, provides a glimpse into the plight of individuals who age out of the DC foster care system and face homelessness because of lack of support and resources, especially in the form of housing vouchers.

Advocates for people in foster care say it’s more common for youth to become homeless shortly after leaving the system — in 2022, 12% of people counted in an annual survey of people experiencing homelessness in DC had been involved with the child welfare system. 

The federal government funds two voucher programs that provide up to five years of housing for former foster care youth first striking out on their own — the Family Unification Program (FUP) and the Fostering Youth to Independence Initiative (FYI). But DC has failed to use all the vouchers available for the city over the past several years, even as people leave foster care for unstable housing conditions.

Children’s Law Center Policy Director Sharra E. Greer speaks about how the disparities young Black people already face are exacerbated by experiences with foster care. “If you’ve got no job history, [if] you haven’t graduated high school, that’s a steep run,” she said. “If they are going to be aging out without that legal permanency, what are we doing to make sure they are successful?”

Sharra explains Children’s Law Center’s experience with youth obtaining vouchers, noting that CFSA denies the majority of applications for vouchers without either the applicants or our attorneys fully understanding why. CFSA has said that staff deny vouchers because the applicants aren’t ready.

“But ready for what? What’s your criteria for readiness? They’re going to age out into homelessness,” Greer said. “It just seems like when you have so many youth who are aging out into homelessness that you would want to be generous in your distribution of these vouchers.”

Photo Credit: Illustration by Athiyah Azeem courtesy of Street Sense Media