By Shawn Chitnis

EVERGREEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson visited the apartment of a woman who received a voucher to pay for her home under the Fostering Youth to Independence program on Tuesday to see the impact it has on young adults. She is one of many people who have benefitted from the HUD Department funding since it launched last year.

(credit: CBS)

“I’m still learning to cook but my favorite meal is spaghetti, so I make that a lot,” she told Dr. Carson during his tour of the apartment. “I heard about the program here but I couldn’t be a part of it, until I could figured out a way back here.”

Since June 2019, HUD has reached people in 31 states with 844 vouchers for a total of $6.8 million in funding, according to the department. FYI focuses on young adults 25 and under who have aged out of the foster program. These are people who would otherwise have nowhere else to go and may end up homeless.

“I am thriving, I am just doing so well and I finally understand the definition of stable,” one voucher recipient said. “The past five years of my life, I’ve bounced from placement to placement always wondering in the back of my head, oh how long am I going to stay here until I have to move somewhere else?”

She said the voucher removed that fear from her as she grew into a young adult. She spoke at a roundtable alongside other voucher recipients at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood. They were joined by Carson and other leaders from HUD as well as staff with agencies in Colorado working to help those in need of a home.

(credit: CBS)

“A lot of our families have a really hard time finding a place to live. We assign them a housing navigator and that navigator works with them until they’re housed,” one employee said from Jefferson County. “Our whole agency really work towards no evictions, and keeping people housed.”

The Jefferson County Housing Authority, known as a Foothills Regional Housing, helped to place the woman Carson met at her apartment in that affordable housing community where he started his day in Colorado. Some of his staff highlighted the work the agency is doing as some of the best in the country.

“We do really focus on the holistic success of our community members and how it actually betters our community as a whole,” another woman said during the roundtable. “It’s not a one size fits all, it’s big picture, it’s small picture, it’s children, it’s our seniors.”

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates more than 20,000 young adults age out of foster care each year. A quarter of those people will experience homelessness within four years of leaving foster care, according to the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare.

“That was moving, that was terrific, I can see effects in every aspect of my life,” one woman said about the experience of getting a home with a voucher. “My mental health is far beyond that I’ve ever been.”

“It has always existed that someone who is 18-years-old needs help, what hasn’t existed is that help,” Carson told CBS4 about the significance of the program.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson (credit: CBS)

Colorado received $345,638 in FYI funds for 39 vouchers, with 25 processed through Foothills Regional Housing Authority. Carson announced that HUD will allocate $10 million to the program for the fiscal year of 2021.

“It’s everything, you all have impacted my life in many ways and I’m so thankful,” one of the voucher recipients said at the roundtable.

Shawn Chitnis

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