LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – About 25 percent of kids who age out of the foster care system in the U.S. end up homeless, and the nearly 4,500 kids in foster care in Arkansas are no exception.
Every year, about 200 kids “age out” of the foster care system in Arkansas. If they’re not quite ready to be independent, their emancipation can lead to homelessness, crime and substance abuse.
That’s why the Arkansas Department of Human Services and the Metropolitan Housing Alliance want to get the word out that there’s a new program that can help.
The Division of Children and Family Services is joining forces with the Metropolitan Housing Alliance to make sure young adults have a roof over their head.
“We’re trying to give them a house to live in, shelter, to get them off the streets,” Metropolitan Housing Alliance chairperson Kenyon Lowe said.
“They (the housing authority) rely on DCFS to make referrals of youth who are either about to age of foster care or who have previously aged out but are not yet 25,” DCFS Assistant Director of Infrastructure & Specialized Programs Christin Harper explained.
“DHS sends them over to us, we process them through Section 8, they have 60 days to find a place,’ Lowe added.
Their housing voucher is good for three years. It’s all paid for with state and federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Once a youth is placed in a home, DCFS then offers that youth supportive services.
“Which might look like life skills classes, so how to do meal planning and nutrition, balance a checkbook, things like that,” Harper said. “Helping them set up utilities and informing them about employment and education opportunities.”
The new program comes with growing pains like getting landlords on board and tracking down youth who need housing.
“And the other challenging part of this program has been identifying those youth who may have aged out of foster care a while ago but are not yet 25 and how to find them,” Harper said.
The goal DHS says, is not just to prevent homelessness, but ensure long term success for Arkansas’ coming-of-age foster youth.
For more information, head to the Arkansas DHS site at HumanServices.Arkansas.gov or visit the Metropolitan Housing Alliance online at LRHousing.org.