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Young Adults Aging Out of Foster Care Face Unique Housing Challenges

As the housing market continues to mend, bringing hope to many formerly underwater homeowners or others who simply hoped for a good return on their investments, at least one group of young Americans has seen no relief in the improving market. HUD [1]released a report [2]this week chronicling the challenges young adults aging out of foster care face in finding safe, affordable housing.

Youth are no longer eligible for foster care when they reach either age 18 or 21, depending on their location. When they age out of the program, many lack the resources necessary to find and obtain safe, stable housing, according to HUD.

In 2010, close to 28,000 youth aged out of foster care and had to find housing "with little or no support from either their family or the state," according to HUD. Regional studies estimate between 11 and 37 percent of these youth end up homeless at some point.

"Studies estimate that 25 to 50 percent of young adults exiting care couch surf, double up, move frequently within a short period of time, have trouble paying rent, and face eviction," HUD stated.

With little or no credit history and no rental history, landlords may be reluctant to rent to these youth, according to HUD. Even more of a hindrance, "Those who exit foster care before age 18 cannot legally sign a lease," HUD reported.

Furthermore, affordability is a common issue for these youth who are finding themselves on their own for the first time, perhaps now more than ever. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan recently said, "This is the worst rental affordability crisis this country has ever known."

While a smattering of programs exist that can help former foster children obtain housing, the HUD report revealed these youth sometimes get overlooked even in these programs.

The Family Unification Program subsidizes housing for families and youth. However, the program appears to focus more on families with children than young adults in need of housing. In fact, young adults accounted for just 14 percent of those helped through the Family Unification Program last year.

"Current research on the outcomes of youth aging out of foster care points to a real need for policy and programs to assist them in maintaining housing and preparing for self-sufficiency," HUD stated in its report.

HUD recommends "rigorous evaluations" of current programs in order to determine what types of programs best meet these youths' needs.