Preventing homelessness among KY foster youth
Friday, September 29, 2023
A lack of housing options, mental-health challenges and a lack of connections and support have combined to drive an uptick in the number of foster youth facing homelessness in Louisville.
According to a new Kentucky Youth Advocates report, more than half of survey respondents experienced homelessness while waiting on an apartment or stable housing to become available.
Tatum Heath, 22, a foster-care alumni advocate with Kentucky's True Up Peer Network, explained that many young people are navigating a lifetime of trauma, which can make securing housing more difficult once they're no longer in the care of the state.
"It's hard for us to feel motivated when we haven't really ever felt that encouragement from family," Heath said. "A lot of us don't really have a mentor or a trusted adult to look up to for that motivation."
Former foster youths can wait up to six months for housing that will accept Section 8 vouchers. According to the report, slow processing of assistance payments for deposits and a lack of safe shelter options are contributing to more young people living on the street.
Foster-care alumni advocate Damareus Jackson-Martin now lives in his own apartment, but said the process wasn't easy "because that's usually what the difficulty is, they're just in fear of asking for help. So now they're struggling, more than they have to, when there's somebody who's out there willing to do the job."
Cynthia Schepers, a peer coach coordinator with Kentucky Youth Advocates, said resources are available to help navigate housing and other basic needs - but amid the pressures of adulthood, many former foster youths aren't aware of resources or don't seek them out.
"We need everybody in our community to reach out and find young adults who are disconnected from services," Schepers said, "and show them what options they have, because there is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution."
The report called for the state to ensure housing options for at least one year after youths leave foster care, encourage community drop-in centers to extend hours of operation, and create a 24-hour crisis hotline for foster alumni, among other solutions.
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