Historically, Philadelphia hasn’t done the best job helping young people transition out of foster care and into stable, independent housing, according to Samuel Harrison, deputy commissioner for child welfare at the city’s Department of Human Services (DHS).
“Many systems across the country, data has found that a lot of these young people have transitioned from care to homelessness,” Harrison said. “And we don’t want to see that happen with our young people.”
COVID-19 worsened this systemic problem when the pandemic hit Philadelphia in March 2020, limiting job options and further disenfranchising people, Harrison added. In response, DHS is stepping up its efforts by offering a new rental assistance program for older youth aging out of Philly’s child welfare system. The program will start next month with 60 participants, and is intended to repeat over time, according to Heather Keafer, chief of communications and strategy for the Office of Children and Families.
“This separate program is important because we find that a lot of young people need additional support as they transition into their adult journey,” Harrison said. “[As children,] they’re not really worried about the housing element of life, but as you transition into adulthood, that becomes a stark reality.”
The Older Youth Rental Assistance program is in partnership with Valley Youth House, an organization that helps connect vulnerable youth to housing. The program will support 20- and 21-year-olds who are aging out of DHS services like foster care or congregate homes or who were previously under DHS care.
This age range was selected because youth are expected to age out of DHS care by age 20. The rental assistance program can be extended until a person is 23.
The program will cover a percentage of each participant’s rent and utility costs, which DHS will determine on a case-by-case basis, Harrison said.
- Finding housing
- Move-in assistance
- Temporary rental and utility payments
- Budgeting support
- Education and employment assistance, like connecting students to the Community College of Philadelphia Octavius Catto Scholarship.
- Life skills training
- Social support and relationship development guidance
- Referrals to community resources
Youth who are currently in or have aged out of DHS care can apply for a spot by emailing DHS_Housing@phila.gov. You can also make a referral by contacting the same email and listing the person’s name, DHS number, and contact information.
Interested youth are encouraged to apply immediately, Harrison said.
You can also view a list of local resources for older youth aging out of care, here.
Editors: Zari Tarazona, Siani Colón / Designer: Henry Savage
Kensington Voice is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow on Twitter at @BrokeInPhilly.
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