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HUD Secretary Ben Carson touts foster program

Correspondent photo / Sean Barron U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks at a roundtable gathering Wednesday at the Portage Metropolitan Housing Authority in Ravenna.

RAVENNA — U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson spoke Wednesday about a federal initiative aimed primarily at ensuring more young adults who age out of foster care will transition to decent housing.

“This program is a reminder that this nation and society can accomplish a lot when we are united and work together,” Carson said during a roundtable gathering Wednesday in Portage County, referring to HUD’s Foster Youth to Independence initiative, which was implemented last year.

He highlighted the program’s success to about 20 area housing leaders and partners, elected officials and related agency officials at the Portage Metropolitan Housing Authority in Ravenna. Also present were two FYI voucher recipients who had been in foster care.

“Just one year ago, the Foster Youth to Independence program was a mere idea spurred from an impactful conversation I had with youth who had experienced the trials of aging out of the foster care system firsthand. One year later, the FYI initiative has spanned over 20 states and transformed the lives of young men and women, providing the resources they need to write their own ticket to success,” Carson said.

According to Carson, too many young adults leaving foster care end up on dangerous trajectories in an attempt to merely survive. So, another valuable aspect of the program, which was launched in July 2019, is that it empowers recipients to realize they can continue to overcome barriers to reaching their goals, finding greater stability and achieving success, he continued.

“These young people prove that no matter what obstacles are in their way … you can rise,” Carson added.

The FYI program continues to expand monthly in an effort to receive additional grant money. Also, Congress is likely to allocate additional funding, he noted.

In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has created significant challenges for all aspects of housing and has spotlighted the FYI program’s urgency as well as why it’s more essential that such young people receive needed resources, Carson said.

When asked to explore ways to improve the program, one agency head said she would like to see recipients receive additional education regarding budgeting and other housing-related responsibilities.

Carson called young adults “the soul of this nation” and said it’s more vital than ever that they are taken care of as they end one significant chapter in their lives and open another.

“I don’t know if anything is more urgent than looking after our young people,” he added.

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