Teens and young adults aging out of foster care face immense challenges as they make the transition to independence and adulthood. Years of instability, isolation, and all too often continuing neglect within the system, leave youth vulnerable to poor educational outcomes, unemployment, and homelessness, through no fault of their own. Now, they are being hit especially hard by the wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19 and related public health responses. To address their needs in this moment of crisis and moving forward, we are calling on Governor Newsom to support the $4 million housing supplement for the THP-NMD extended foster care program included in the Senate and Assembly budget draft.
Background and Impact
Since 2012, California’s THP-NMD extended foster care program has provided housing and skill-building support to transition-age (18-21) foster youth. Delivered by independent providers operating at the county level—like First Place for Youth—the program was designed to give young people an extended “runway” to independence. The hope was that that through access to stable housing and dedicated support in education, employment, and life-skills, young people would have the best chance of establishing a path to long-term success.
The THP-NMD program has proven to be a powerful tool in preventing foster youth homelessness, providing youth with opportunities, resources, and support necessary to make progress towards the goals and outcomes that prevent housing instability over the longer term.
For youth who spend 12 months or more with First Place for Youth:
- 90% exit to stable housing,
- 98% avoid arrest, and
- 96% enroll in post-secondary education, obtain a degree, or become employed.
However, THP-NMD has always faced capacity limits that prevent services from reaching all eligible youth. The capacity of the program is severely limited by the soaring cost of housing in California’s major cities, combined with a rate that has not kept pace. In California, the cost of housing has increased 64% since 2012, while the monthly THP-NMD rate has increased just 24%. This imbalance makes it difficult for providers to procure additional housing units, leading to a massive waitlist of unserved youth.
An Immediate Need
Today, the COVID-19 crisis is laying bare the reality of the circumstances facing transition-age youth and revealing cracks in the system meant to support them in achieving long-term stability.
In a recent survey of provider-level impacts of COVID-19, 77% of providers reported having clients who have been laid off, while 76% have clients have had work hours severely cut. At First Place for Youth alone, 48% of youth who were working at the beginning of March were furloughed from their jobs or have had their hours cut significantly.
For our young people and those of other THP-NMD providers, the loss of work represents a new bump in the road on their path to long term success. But for young people who are not currently connected to a THP-NMD provider, the unexpected loss of income has put them on the razor’s edge of imminent homelessness. Nearly half of providers have new clients who were made homeless or housing insecure as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis, and 40% have seen their waiting lists increase as more and more young people reach out for support.
Youth on the waitlist are not only missing out on housing. During the COVID-19 crisis, THP-NMD staff are acting as first responders: moving youth in from homelessness, ensuring they have food and essential supplies, coordinating access to technology to engage in distance learning, helping them understand local orders and social distancing protocols, and making sure youth have access to medical care when necessary. Perhaps most importantly, staff are keeping youth connected—promoting their mental and emotional well-being as they navigate this scary time.
Time to Act
There are, on an average day, upwards of 300 young people waiting for housing through THP-NMD. These youth need housing and services desperately – now more than ever. But providers cannot grow to meet the demand when there is still a gap between available funding and the full cost of housing. With a relatively small injection of state funding to close this gap, organizations will be able expand to house more vulnerable young people, while also redirecting other general funding toward the high-need supports such as improving food security, providing adequate mental health resources, and ensuring youth have the technology they need to continue their educations through online learning.
While certainly not a cure-all for the challenges facing providers and youth during this crisis, the proposed housing supplement is a simple and common-sense solution to ensure programs can support transition age foster youth during the COVID-19 crisis, prevent foster youth homelessness now and in the future, and do more to support youth’s long-term development and success.
Call or E-mail Governor Newsom to request his support for the Preventing Foster Youth Homelessness Proposal.
Phone Number: (916) 445-2841
E-mail portal: https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/
Call or E-mail Script:
- Thank you for your leadership during this crisis, and all you have done to protect foster youth. I am calling as part of a statewide coalition of over 100 organizations to ask for your support of the $4 million Preventing Foster Youth Homelessness Proposal which would establish a THP-NMD Housing Supplement, DSS item number 5180.
- Foster youth need your help during COVID-19: Foster youth across the state are becoming homeless due to COVID-19. While young adults across the state turn to their family for help, older youth in foster care rely on California’s foster care system.
- California has a solution, but it needs a fix: California provides safe, affordable housing for over 2,000 foster youth annually through its Transitional Housing Placement (THP-NMD). This program has been one of California’s most effective programs, but it needs a fix! This proposal establishes the THP-NMD Housing Supplement to prevent homelessness by ensuring THP-NMD is available in higher-cost parts of the state.
- Please include $4 million for the Preventing Foster Youth Homelessness Proposal.