Getting Rent Help Gives Foster Youth a Chance to Reach Their Goals


DHS distributes game-changing HUD housing voucher to youth who have been in foster care and who are homeless or at risk of being homeless

CLACKAMAS – Dakota VanSoyc, 21, and Joelle Wright, 20, had been living in a tent along the Springwater Corridor bike trail and then at Beggar’s Tick Wildlife Refuge, both in southeast Portland.

VanSoyc had left his parents’ home in Wyoming at 17 to head for Portland with a friend, but his friend kicked him out. That’s when he met Wright, from La Grande, and he moved in with her and her father – but that didn’t work out either.

They spent about three years without a home going back and forth to VanSoyc’s home state of Wyoming.  And then they found out they were going to be parents: Wright is pregnant with a little girl. Without a home, however, they were considering an adoption for their child.

A social service agency put them up in a motel, and that’s about when they learned about the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing voucher program for youth 18 to 24 years old, who have spent time in foster care and who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. The voucher program, called Foster Youth to Independence (FYI), is administered through the Housing Authority of Clackamas County and the Department of Human Services Child Welfare program in Clackamas County. The program is also currently available in Klamath and Washington counties. Other counties are beginning the process to increase Oregon’s participation in this program. The amount of the rent voucher depends on income, number of people in the household and average rents in the area. Here is more information on the Housing Authority of Clackamas County website.

Wright and VanSoyc were part of a nationwide video call recently with the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families about the HUD grant. The call was to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the HUD program. There were youths from many states telling their stories of how the housing voucher helped them have stable housing so they could work, or go to school, or to give them and their children a home.

VanSoyc told the group, “Having this voucher helped us get off the streets. My goals now are to have a full-time job, get our own place, and to be able to take care of our kid.”

“We were going to adopt our baby out. Now we are talking about keeping her,” Wright told the others on the call.

The Department of Human Services Clackamas County Child Welfare and the Housing Authority of Clackamas County worked together to apply for the HUD grant. So far, they have given out all but one of their available 25 vouchers.

Cristin Guitron, a Department of Human Services Child Welfare and Self-Sufficiency Programs Community Partnership Coordinator in Clackamas County, said that VanSoyc and Wright are like some young adults transitioning out of foster care who do not have a stable support system around them.   

“They’re living in their car, couch surfing, or at risk of losing their housing. The whole goal of this voucher is to help them gain independence to be successful when the voucher expires or they are over-income for the voucher. It’s a stepping stone to gain life experience and to get stabilized,” she said.

Toni Karter, the operations manager for the Housing Authority of Clackamas County, said the FYI initiative has been a great success.

“The program provides the foundation of housing with DHS providing wraparound services to give families a foundation to build upon. The hope is that three years of assistance is enough for these young families to transition successfully on their own,” she said.     

The two agencies bring in the services or assistance they youth need to be successful.  For VanSoyc and Wright that means that there will be some childcare available to help them be able to keep their child; for others it could be help with paying utilities.

“I am thankful,” VanSoyc said. “Just finally being stable in a house, not out on the streets, knowing where we are going to sleep. Things like not worrying about where am I going to get a shower.”

About Author

Christine Stone is a Communications Officer with the Department of Human Services.

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