Using Housing Vouchers to Support Youth with Child Welfare Experience at Risk of Homelessness

Using Housing Vouchers to Support Youth with Child Welfare Experience at Risk of Homelessness

Lessons from the Field, OPRE Report #2021-40
Published: Mar 01, 2021
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Associated Project

Building Program Capacity to Support Youth at Risk of Homelessness (YARH): Phases I-III

Time frame: Phase I: 2013-2015 Phase II: 2015-2019 Phase III: 2019-2022

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation


Kelsey Chesnut

Morgan Woods

Lanae Davis

Denise McHugh

Trevor Williams

Luther Owens

Kelli Puryear

Jessica Trombetta

Key Findings
  • Both grantees provide case management and guidance designed to empower youth as they navigate the process of applying for a voucher and searching for housing, including empowering youth to drive decisions such as what neighborhood(s) or type of unit(s) to focus on.
  • Both grantees advocated for youth at the system level by negotiating voucher eligibility requirements or rules and regulations
  • In places where there is a growing demand for housing and limited supply, landlords typically have few incentives to work with youth with child welfare experience, so both grantees help landlords see an opportunity to help a person in need, and educate them about what to expect when working with youth.
  • To help youth keep vouchers and stay housed, both grantees cultivate relationships with youth and landlords, mediate between youth and landlords if issues arise, and advocate for youth to keep their vouchers and avoid evictions and other outcomes that can jeopardize their long-term housing stability.

This brief shares insights from the Colorado Department of Human Services and the New Jersey Department of Children and Families on how youth-serving organizations can use housing vouchers to support youth and young adults with previous child welfare system involvement and are at risk of homelessness. These two agencies received grants as part of a multi-phase grant program referred to as Youth At-Risk of Homelessness (YARH), which is funded by the Children’s Bureau within the Administration for Children and Families. The experience of the two grantees highlights the importance of actively helping youth get and keep their vouchers; cultivating relationships between youth, landlords (or property managers), and child welfare workers; and building buy-in from landlords.

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