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Rhode Island receives federal housing vouchers for families, youth aging out of foster care

The $350,000 federal investment in Family Unification Program vouchers will help provide access to housing and and supportive services for families and youth

A young girl sits inside a home in Texas.ALLISON V. SMITH/NYT

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island was awarded a series of federal housing vouchers for nearly 30 families with children who are currently homeless or whose primary reason for being involved in the foster care system is their lack of adequate housing, state officials announced Monday.

The 28 housing vouchers are part of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Family Unification Program, or FUP, which Rhode Island Housing, a quasi-public agency, applied for in July 2023. The FUP vouchers provide opportunities for eligible families and youth to access housing and receive supportive services funded by the state’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

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Families who receive a voucher will not receive free housing, but their housing costs will be capped at 30 percent of their income — even as housing costs continue to rise in Rhode Island.

These FUP vouchers “will provide critical resources” to families at risk of homelessness, said Rhode Island Housing executive director Carol Ventura at Monday’s press conference, by providing resources to families to access “stable housing they can afford.”

In Rhode Island, approximately 160 youth and families known to DCYF could be eligible for Family Unification Program vouchers.

“The cost of housing isn’t going down,” said Congressman Gabe Amo. “Families and young people are the first to fall victim to homelessness.”

Ashley Deckert, who was appointed the director of the R.I. DCYF in 2023, said the department is currently paying for 43 homeless families to stay in hotel rooms across the state.

“Some have been in these hotels for months,” said Deckert. “But we know children are not meant to be raised in hotels.”

Ashley Deckert, the director of the R.I. Department of Children, Youth, and Families, speaks at a press conference on Family Unification Program vouchers from HUD at RI Housing on Monday, Jan. 8, 2023.Alexa Gagosz

Families for whom the lack of adequate housing is the primary factor in a child being involved in the foster care system or is delaying family reunification, and youth between 18 and 24 who have exited foster care or will do so within the next 90 days, are eligible to receive these vouchers. It has not yet been determined how many vouchers will be awarded to families, and how many to youth exiting foster care.

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As required by law, FUP vouchers issued to youth are limited to 36 months unless a youth meets the requirements to receive an extension. Extensions can be granted for an additional two years.

“Families belong together,” said Congressman Seth Magaziner, who said children should not be separated from their families due to homelessness.

Peter Asen, who was recently appointed the field office director for HUD’s Rhode Island office, told the Boston Globe on Monday he had been part of a group that had tried to seek these vouchers in Rhode Island previously, but each attempt failed, and Rhode Island hasn’t received FUP vouchers for many years. This year, he said he credited Deckert’s leadership for helping Rhode Island to secure 28 vouchers that represent a $350,000 federal investment.

“Investing in our children is an investment in our future,” said US Senator Jack Reed, who said that HUD awarding FUP vouchers to Rhode Island “was a big deal.” “You either pay now or you pay later. I’d rather pay now.”

Rhode Island is one of 13 states awarded FUP vouchers, said Juana Matias, HUD’s regional administrator. In December, HUD announced it had awarded $10 million for 625 vouchers to 13 public housing authorities in the country. As part of the program, youth will receive training in life skills, including nutrition and financial literacy, said Matias.

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“Keeping youth and families off the streets is essential to our efforts to reduce and ultimately end homelessness,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge in a statement in December. “This funding will help our local partners aid youth and allow families to get into more permanent and stable housing. HUD is committed to ending homelessness, and this funding and partnership help us continue that critical part of our mission.”


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.