HUD Secretary Carson introduces program to help aged-out foster youth

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - When a group of previous foster youth came to the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, with concerns about the growing number of youth out of the foster care system and becoming homeless, he decided to make a change. A change that young adults in Rapid City will soon get to see.

Pennington County Housing and Redevelopment Commission received a grant of $12,153 in the most recent Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) grant. (Credit: HUD)

Dr. Carson introduced a new program coming to Rapid City that aims to help the more than 1,200 youth in the South Dakota foster system get a fresh start to adulthood.

Waking up and having no place to call home is a familiar nightmare for the 20,000 young people who age out of the foster care system, and the nearly quarter of those who end up homeless each year.

"When I got out of the system, I didn't have anywhere to go," said former foster youth, Demetrius Cooper, from Bowling Green, Ky.

Approximately 25 percent of those young people experience homelessness within four years of leaving the foster care system.

A program started by Secretary Ben Carson just one year ago, making it's way to Rapid City, aims to help change that.

"Not only do we give them what they need to get an apartment with a housing choice voucher, but we also work in conjunction with the child welfare services and other entities to provide wrap-around services so they can complete their education," said Carson.

The Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) initiative provides young adults aged 18-24 who are growing out of the foster care system with a chance they haven't been given before.

"It gives you what a solid family would normally have given you," said Carson.

Secretary Carson says the end goal is to help youth become self-sufficient adults.

"The question will be how many foster youths there are in Rapid City that need this program, and that assessment is being made. Obviously there will be more young people in Rapid City that will benefit from this program in the future," Carson added.

Carson says the FYI program has already helped 494 young people in the United States, and that number continues to grow each week.

"I have my first home, this is the first place I feel comfortable in," said Cooper.

More than $1 million has been given out across the United States through the FYI program, and more than $12,000 is being dispersed in Rapid City with the help of a partnering South Dakota Public Welfare Agency.

To get involved with this program, you just have to be a young adult aging out of the foster system, in need of help.