Huntsville Housing Authority adopts new program to end youth homelessness

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Community of people experiencing homelessness in “camps” or “tents”

Data pix.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Homelessness is rising in North Alabama and some young adults exiting the foster care system are at risk of experiencing it.

The Huntsville Housing Authority (HHA) has a plan that will take more young people off the streets.

It's a hard knock life

Navigating the streets is tough, especially for a young person who has no place to go.

"Unfortunately, a lot of times when kids go into the foster care system they don't understand why they were placed in foster care," said North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Lineise Arnold. "So sometimes they have resentment toward foster cares as well as their parents."

Lineise Arnold works directly with the homeless community. She said that resentment pushes kids to leave the system without taking advantage of transitional programs.

"Yes," said Arnold. "That is the reality."

Let's end youth homelessness

As of January 2019, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness reported 320 young adults (aged 18-24) experienced homelessness in Alabama.

The report said, "Public school data reported to the U.S. Department of Education during the 2016-2017 school year shows that an estimated 14,112 public school students experienced homelessness over the course of the year. Of that total, 675 students were unsheltered, 735 were in shelters, 681 were in hotels/motels, and 12,021 were doubled up."

On Monday, the Huntsville Housing Authority got the board's approval to adopt a new program to end youth homelessness.

"This is a targeted allocation that [the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development] is investing in," said HHA Assisted Housing Director Paula Bingham.

The housing authority will foster youth to be independent

The program is called the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative. It's for young adults - 18 to 24 - exiting the foster care system who are at-risk or currently living on the streets.

The program will offer them housing, paid utilities, even personal and career support to better transition into adulthood.

"It's a great program because it'll give kids the opportunity to succeed versus fail when they leave the foster care system," said Arnold.

A step in the right direction

Housing authority officials said they will accept 25 young adults and work with them for up to three years. They hope to have those young adults in place by the end of the year.

The initiative at the Huntsville Housing Authority is a referral only program.

The referrals will come from the Department of Human Resources. But the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless will be identifying currently homeless individuals that were previously in the foster care system.

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