TROY, Mo. — Officials from the Northeast Community Action Corporation and U.S. Housing and Urban Development are teaming up to fight homelessness and provide resources for future education and careers to youths who are "aging out" of foster care after they turn 24.
NECAC is among the first agencies to work with HUD for the new Foster Youth to Independence Initiative, which provides Section 8 housing assistance vouchers and education in areas like basic life skills, landlord outreach, job preparation, along with counseling for education, leases and career paths. So far, five vouchers have been allocated in St. Charles County, and six more vouchers were distributed Thursday among NECAC's 12-county coverage area in Northeast Missouri. The National Foster Youth Institute reports that one out every five youths who come out of foster care will be homeless, one out of five will be affected traumatically, 97% of youths facing this situation won't further their education past high school, and 50% of youths will not have a job after their foster care concludes. The FYI Initiative works to reverse those trends by establishing a safe home and the tools needed for future success and independence for those 18-24 years of age.
"As a former foster care youth, myself, having a safe and stable home made all the difference in my life," said HUD Regional Administrator Chris Patterson. "Our young people are our future, and this investment assures that those in your community who age out of foster care into this program will have a brighter future to look forward to."
Brent Engel, public relations officer with NECAC, agreed that the FYI Initiative will make a difference in the lives of youths and their neighbors in the community.
"Every young person who ages out of foster care deserves the opportunity to explore their talents and interests and to achieve their goals," Engel said. "If they do not have adequate, safe and affordable housing, they just aren't going to have as great a chance of succeeding. So, we want to reverse some of those statistics and give at least a few more young people who are coming out of foster care a better chance of making it, because the odds are stacked against them."
Engel said NECAC staff members work closely with the youths in the FYI Initiative, assisting with a list of landlords who meet the requirements for the Section 8 housing choice voucher. NECAC employees also conduct intake assessments to see what other programs could help youths, like the family self-sufficiency program. Participants set aside a portion of their monetary contribution toward rent each month and invest it in an escrow account. After the program is completed in five years, participants can use the money they saved to buy a home, pursue higher education or start a business. Engel said program participants have saved from $1,500 to $30,000 over the five-year period.
NECAC and HUD officials are looking forward to the impact the FYI Initiative can bring, and the program is the latest milestone in a long partnership between the two agencies.
"NECAC is proud to be among the first public housing agencies to receive funding for the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative. NECAC has been a partner with HUD for more than 40 years in providing rent assistance to qualifying residents of 12 counties in Missouri," said NECAC President and Chief Executive Officer Don Patrick. "This new funding will help NECAC broaden its commitment to making sure more of our neighbors in need have decent, safe and affordable housing."
More information about the FYI Initiative is available athud.gov. NECAC's Marion County Service can be reached at 573-221-3404.