Former Foster Youth & Homelessness

“Among the populations at greatest risk for becoming homeless are the 25, 000 to 30, 000 youths who age out of foster care each year when they turn 18 or, in some states, 21” [“Homelessness During the Transition From Foster Care to Adulthood” American Journal of Public Health December 2013 by Amy Dworsky, PhD, Laura Napolitano, PhD, and Mark Courtney, PhD]

“25% of former foster youth had been homeless within 2.5 to 4 years after exiting foster care” [Supplemental Document to the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness: June 2010]

“Thirty percent of the homeless in America and some 25 percent of those in prison were once in foster care.” ABC News Primetime

According to Casey Family Programs, about 25,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 21 must leave foster care each year. These young people have experienced maltreatment and have lived with instability. So it will probably come as no surprise that they are often ill prepared to suddenly live independently and figure out on their own how to do what the foster care system was set up to do for them—feed, clothe, and house them. Foster youth approach the transition to adulthood with significant educational deficits. The 2011 University of Chicago (Chaplin Hall) “Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth” By Amy Dworsky, Mark E. Courtney, Jennifer Hook, Adam Brown, Colleen Cary, Kara Love, Vanessa Vorhies, JoAnn S. Lee, Melissa Raap, Gretchen Ruth Cusick, Thomas Keller, Judy Havlicek, Alfred Perez, Sherri Terao, Noel Bost — found that former foster youth are

  • 14 times more likely not to complete college than the general population
  • More than twice as likely not to have a high school diploma or GED as their peers
  • About 25% of foster care alumni experience post-traumatic stress (compared to 4% of the general population)
  • The unemployment rate among foster care alumni was 47%
  • These percentages are understood to be greater in Los Angeles and NYC
  • The cost to society is $8 billion/year


Why is furnishing a home a SOLUTION?

EXTENSIVE RESEARCH IN EUROPE into the reductions in homelessness acknowledges that “Furniture provision services can reduce tenancy failure. Difficulties furnishing a tenancy can be a cause of tenancy failure. Furniture is important to tenants’ wellbeing and extends beyond seating and beds. A lack of furniture has adverse psychological impacts; and can reduce the likelihood that a property will become a ‘home’ for tenants. Essential items include chairs and beds, but also white goods such as fridges and cooking facilities.” The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University and the Council for the Homeless Northern Ireland (CHNI) were commissioned by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) to assess the need for furniture provision [“Assessment of the need for Furniture” Authors: Aimee Ambrose Elaine Batty Will Eadson Paul Hickman George Quinn, March 2016]

“There is widespread recognition that, for many homeless households, help with furniture and furnishings is an important part of ensuring tenancy sustainment.” [“Research Report: Furniture for the homeless: A house without furniture is not a home.” From the Shelter Policy Library August 2010]

“Having a satisfactory range of furniture and furnishings is as essential for homeless people who are being rehoused as it is for those fortunate enough not to experience such a trauma of homelessness. Without this, it is much more likely that the tenancy will fail and that the cycle of homelessness will be repeated; a considerable cost to both the person concerned and to local authorities who have the statutory duty to rehouse homeless persons. Providing help with furniture and furnishings is a very basic form of homelessness prevention for impoverished households moving into unfurnished apartments.” [Scottish Council for Single Homeless (2007) “Tenancy Failure – how much does it cost?”]

In the The Scottish Government and COSLA (April 2009) – “Prevention of Homelessness Guidance” recommends “the need to provide furniture in the context of rehousing homeless people into the private rented sector as a means of helping tenancy sustainment to avoid repeat homelessness.”

The importance of furniture was recognized by the Homelessness Task Force (HTF) in Scotland which reported in 2002 that: “For many homeless people, the offer of an unfurnished tenancy is not enough because they lack the means to provide basic furniture. In these circumstances, the tenancy is unlikely to be viable or sustainable.”

“Providing help with furniture and furnishings is so basic that it hardly needs a mention” [Hal Pawson, Emma Davidson, Gina Nelto, Heriot Watt University, Scottish Executive Social Research (2007) – Evaluation of Homelessness Prevention Activities in Scotland]

“Having a home is much more than having a house. A home is a place which provides warmth, familiarity and a sense of security. Its furniture and furnishings and manner of its decoration provide a sense of personal identity. “ [“How Many, How Much? Single Homelessness and the Question of Numbers and Cost”, Crisis Report, London 2003]

The Crisis - A Sense of Home