Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Programs.
The Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Programs (OHY) was created in 2015 as an office within the Department of Commerce. The OHY provides services for youth and young adults, including the Independent Youth Housing Program (IYHP), street youth services, HOPE Centers, and crisis residential centers.
Independent Youth Housing Program.
The IYHP was created by the Legislature in 2007. The IYHP provides rental assistance and case management services, through five contracted agencies located throughout the state, to eligible youth who have aged out of the Washington State dependency system. There are two primary goals of the IYHP:
Youth are eligible under the program if they are at least 18 years of age but less than 23 years, were legal dependents of the state within four months of their eighteenth birthday, and are Washington residents. Priority under the IYHP is given to youth who were dependents of the state for at least one year. Youth participating in Extended Foster Care (EFC) are only eligible to receive IYHP services once they exit EFC.
Youth may receive the following services under the IYHP:
Other IYHP requirements include:
Extended Foster Care.
The EFC program provides an opportunity for youth who were dependents of Washington at age 18 to voluntarily agree to continue receiving foster care services, including placement services, while working on their goals towards independence.
The youth's dependency action will continue if the youth elects to participate in the program on their eighteenth birthday. Eligible youth who do not elect to participate in the EFC program on their eighteenth birthday have until their twenty-first birthday to voluntarily request to participate in the EFC program. Eligible youth may enter and exit the program as needed between the ages of 18 and 21 years old.
Extended Foster Care services may include:
Eligibility requirements under the IYHP are expanded to include youth who were formerly dependent at any time before their eighteenth birthday, are under the age of 25, and youth who are also receiving EFC services.
(In support) Access to the IYHP is critical for youth in foster care. This bill is important because there are youth who experience foster care that end up in situations where they have nowhere to go and very little support, even in circumstances where they have been adopted. This bill ensures that more youth who have been in foster care will have access to safe and stable housing. Nationally, 50 percent of homeless adults have spent some time foster care. In the state, one in three youth in foster care experience housing instability within a year of aging out of foster care. Young people who experience the trauma of being in foster care deserve the same level of support as young people who come from intact families. The IYHP provides housing stability and is a stepping stone for youth from dependence to independence. Youth enrolled in the IYHP receive individualized case management. Currently, youth have to choose between the IYHP and EFC services. This bill will no longer force youth to choose between the two programs.
(In support) Approximately 50 percent of homeless adults have spent time in foster care, and approximately 30 percent of youth aging out of foster care experience housing instability. The Independent Youth Housing Program (IYHP) helps reduce homelessness by providing supports to youth who were dependents of the state to access housing and develop the skills they need to be fully independent. The IYHP also encourages youth to invest in themselves. The IYHP service providers have found the program to be very effective at preventing youth from becoming homeless or returning to housing instability. Cost-benefit analyses of similar programs have demonstrated that investing in these kinds of housing stability services results in significant savings due to decreasing future homelessness.