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Program aims to assist youths leaving foster care

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County is preparing to sign an agreement that will help foster youth secure housing when they age out of the child welfare system.

Children, Youth & Families Director James Hudack reviewed the forthcoming option on Tuesday before commissioners, who offered their support for an expanding federal program.

As part of the Youth to Independence Initiative offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Blair County would be able to get as many as 25 vouchers annually for foster youth, Hudack told commissioners.

With these vouchers, young adults would be able to cover up to three years of housing costs anywhere in Blair County outside of Altoona.

Because the county’s program is being set up through the County of Blair Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Hudack said the use of these forthcoming vouchers would be within municipalities served by the housing authority.

However, information about the initiative is being shared with Altoona, Hudack said, so if vouchers can be offered through its housing authority, then the whole county will be covered.

Commissioner Bruce Erb said he recently attended a county housing and redevelopment authority meeting where the program was well received.

Commissioner Laura Burke offered her support for the initiative.

“It would be nice to have one more tool to help these young people,” she said.

The youth aging out of the foster care system can encounter a lot of struggles, Hudack said.

CYF currently addresses those struggles with an Independent Living Program to help teenagers acquire skills they’ll need to live on their own. The vouchers, Hudack said, will be “a wonderful addition” to that program.

HUD launched the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative in 2019 to help a vulnerable population with a greater risk of becoming homeless.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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