By Francesca Silverstein, Franklin High School’s The Franklin Post
The Housing Authority of Portland, also known as Home Forward, has been awarded nearly $1 million to invest in a community response to houselessness challenges faced by youth involved in the child welfare system. Made up of 75 Housing Choice Vouchers, the $997,110 will aid young adults transitioning out of foster care in finding housing. According to a press release from US senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Home Forward may also grant vouchers to families for whom a lack of housing will cause children to enter or remain in foster care.
Housing Choice Vouchers are provided by Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) through federal funding and can cover housing of the participant’s choosing as long as it meets minimum health and safety standards. The PHA pays a housing subsidy to the landlord, and the participant is responsible for the difference between the actual rent and the subsidy.
The vouchers Home Forward received were allocated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through their Foster Youth to Independence initiative (FYI). The HUD FYI page explains that the program helps PHAs to provide housing assistance for youth aged 18-24 who have left or will leave foster care within 90 days, and those aged 16 or older who are houseless or at risk of becoming houseless. In addition to up to 36 months of rental assistance, it is expected that the youth will receive support to guide them on what the FYI calls “their path to self-sufficiency.”
Wyden and Merkley announced the award Friday, February 24, with Merkley stating that he is “pleased that the City of Portland is receiving additional resources to help more of our foster youth find safe places to call home.” Wyden emphasized housing as a human right.
The 2022 Point-In-Time report from the Joint Office of Homeless Services recorded a total Multnomah County population of 5,228 people experiencing houselessness in 2022, with 422 of them under 18. Another 266 were aged 18-24.
A contributing factor to these rates is Portland’s high cost of living. The median rental price for all property types in Portland is $1,795 per month according to Zillow. For apartments, the median renting price is $1,599 and for houses it’s $2,695.
Home Forward’s award is part of a greater $12.9 million allotment that will go to 16 PHAs in nine states. Home Forward is the only PHA involved from Oregon, although five different PHAs from California and two from Washington were among the beneficiaries.
The program has garnered excitement for a better future and HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge states, “We are excited to work with Public Housing Agencies to help them meet the housing needs of youth who have aged out of the foster care program so that they have access to safe, stable and affordable homes.” She adds, “Helping young adults to find a place to call home gives them the opportunity to focus on their goals and dreams without having to worry about where they are going to lay their head at night.”