By Libby Smith
DENVER (CBS4) – Half of Colorado teens, who age out of the foster care system, experience homelessness. Now, the State has 25 housing vouchers that are earmarked for those young people. In 2017, the Colorado Legislature allocated $15.3 million from the Colorado’s Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to go to a new program called Homeless Solutions, which funds housing vouchers for vulnerable people experiencing homelessness.
LINK: Homeless Solutions
Khalil Kelley is one of the former foster care youths who qualified for a voucher. He’s getting used to having his own studio apartment.
“It’s like going back home, and claiming your own home,” Kelley told CBS4.
Kelley aged out of the foster care system just one year ago at the age of 19. He said he was lucky to have a great team around him to help him make the transition. He’s in school and working. And he got his voucher through Urban Peak, so it comes with some services that help him adjust to living on his own.
“It’s an ownership. It’s a responsibility that I take pride in,” Kelley explained.
LINK: Urban Peak
Amaya Estes feels that same pride.
“It’s been a huge blessing…a huge help,” she told CBS4.
Estes’ path out of foster care was harder. She spent 2-years in jail, was homeless for a while, and has had three children.
“About two and a half years go, my son passed away,” she said.
That was when she started turning her life around.
“I started going to church, that’s my biggest thing. The one thing that has helped me through everything,” Estes explained.
She also started doing the work required to get a housing voucher: meeting with a case manager, doing chores, and going through apartment checks.
“It’s just helped me see who I can be, and see that I have more potential than I ever gave myself credit for,” Estes said.
For both Estes and Kelley being able to pay for housing provided the stable base they needed to launch their futures.
“I’ve been looking at a couple of apartments not too far from here,” Kelley said.
“I’m grateful that it exists, because I wouldn’t be able to be where I am right now without it,” Estes added.
FURTHER RESOURCES: CBS4’s Stories on Aging Out
The Department of Local Affair’s Division of Housing’s Office of Homeless Initiatives manages the vouchers. They distributed them through partner agencies in Boulder, Denver, Fremont, Garfield, and Weld counties.
Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you’d like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.