Lexington receives grant to help young people avoid homelessness as they leave foster care

Lexington has received a $46,000 federal grant to help young people who are transitioning out of foster care avoid homelessness.

“Often times we think of homelessness as being centered around adults and senior citizens, however, this grant allows us to bring to the forefront the issues centered around youth transitioning out of foster care who are at risk of homelessness,” said Austin Simms, Lexington Housing Authority Executive Director. The Housing Authority led the effort to win the grant, the highest level of funding awarded nationwide.

The Housing Authority will work with the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the City’s Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention to implement the grant.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric C. Friedlander said providing safety and affordable housing to former foster youth is part of the continuum of care the Cabinet aims to provide, particularly through its transitional services program.

“With partners like Lexington Housing Authority, and funding through this Housing and Urban Development initiative, we can empower many more foster alumni, and prevent them from ever experiencing homelessness,” Friedlander said. “Now more than ever, we strive for the secure shelter of every youth in transition out of foster care.”

The grant provides more than housing support, Friedlander said. “It gives youth financial management and life skills counseling that every young adult needs, but that some foster youth do not always get growing up. It’s a wonderful foundation for stability and success.”

Aldean Pleasant, manager of the Housing Authority’s housing choice voucher program, wrote the grant proposal, and will manage the program, working with the state and the City.

Pleasant said young people transitioning out of foster care are often mature for their age. “They bring both life experiences, and high expectations for their lives,” Pleasant said. “They are excited and encouraged about the longevity of the program, allowing them 36 months of housing assistance, plus additional self-sufficiency and life skills support. The housing assistance and supportive services gives them a solid transition out of Foster Care to independence with preparation for a brighter future.  The collaborative work and support between the agencies shows true partnership of empowering the future of Foster Youth in our Commonwealth.”

Polly Ruddick, director of the Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention, said the grant is another piece in the homelessness puzzle. “Each person is unique and the solutions are not one size fits all,” she said. “This grant will help us provide individualized life plans to keep our valuable young people in housing, and that is critical to ultimately ending homelessness.”