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New Colorado program offers rental assistance to youth exiting foster care system

The assistance program can cover 70%-100% of rental costs for eligible former foster care youth who would otherwise be homeless.
Homeless
Posted at 3:14 PM, Jun 06, 2024

DENVER — According to the National Foster Youth Institute, about half of the homeless population across the country has spent time in foster care. Locally, Colorado's National Youth in Transition Database shows that 36% of 21-year-olds who left foster care said they had been homeless at some point in the prior two years.

A new program launched in Colorado is aiming to cut down on those numbers.

Previously, one of the only resources to help kids aging out of foster care find housing was the voucher system known as Section 8.

"That voucher program, while available to former foster youth, didn't have any special circumstances or provisions within it to actually meet the needs of these young people," said Trevor Williams, youth services unit manager for the Division of Child Welfare in the Office of Children, Youth and Families at the Colorado Department of Human Services. "There also wasn't funding for things like deposits, for assistance with food."

DHS, in partnership with county-level Chafee Foster Care programs, has launched a new rental assistance program specifically for those who left foster care and are at risk of being homeless.

"By virtue of being in the foster care system, young people are moving through life having experienced a lot of trauma and a lot of adversity. They are lacking natural support systems, the same things that most young people leaving their families or their homes or transitioning to adulthood would have when they're becoming adults," said Williams.

In addition to rental assistance for an apartment of their choice, the program would assign a case manager to the applicants to help them navigate life on their own.

"What are their hopes and dreams? What are the things they want for their life? And the case manager is supporting them in getting and doing those things," said Williams.

To be eligible, the applicant needs to live in Colorado:

  • Be 18-25 years old
  • Formerly in foster care
  • Experiencing homelessness or will be homeless without assistance

If approved, 70%-100% of rent could be covered.
"They would be required to contribute up to 30% of their income to the rental expense itself. If they don't have employment at this point in time, then it would be 100% until they get employment, and then the amount would adjust," said Williams.

The goal is to create stable homes and eventually stable families in the future.

"Being on the streets is hard, and frankly, heartbreaking, especially for this particular population," said Williams. "They are humans who need help, right? And like any human who needs help, we have the ability to help them."

The program is funded through the general fund after the passing of SB23-082 last year.

The program is set up to assist up to 100 applicants, depending on rental costs. So far, 48 people have been pre-approved.

"We have vouchers available and we want to make sure that the young people who need these vouchers, young people who are homeless right now, or they're about to be homeless, know these vouchers are out there," said Williams.

To begin the application process, email: cdhs_fosteringsuccess@state.co.us




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