Category Archives: Homeless youth

Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Non-RFA Approved Homes

Q: I am a grandmother who is caring for her two grandchildren. My Resource Family Approval (RFA) has not been approved yet. Can I still participate in the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program?

A: Yes, this was addressed in a recent Frequently Asked Questions document disseminated by the California Department of Social Services, stated below:

Can Bridge funding be used on non-approved Resource Family Approval (RFA) homes?

Yes, families that have a child placed with them in an emergency or for a compelling reason, are eligible to receive a time-limited monthly payment or voucher for child care and a child care navigator subject to county eligibility requirements. See ACL 17-109.

Citation: California Department of Social Services. All County Letter No. I8-80, Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children, Question 13 (June 14, 2018). http://www.cdss.ca.gov/Portals/9/ACL/2018/18-80.pdf

Resources for Students with Disabilities

Q: I am helping a student with learning disabilities who will be attending community college in the fall. Are there any resources available for her as a student with a disability?

A: Yes, every community college campus has a Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) office. She will need to provide evidence that she has a disability in order to qualify for their services. The DSPS program provides support services, specialized instruction, and educational accommodations to students with disabilities so that they can participate as fully and benefit as equitably from the college experience as their non-disabled peers. Examples of services available through DSPS that are over and above those regularly offered by the college would be test-taking facilitation, assessment for learning disabilities, specialized counseling, interpreter services for hearing-impaired or deaf students, mobility assistance, note taker services, reader services, transcription services, specialized tutoring, access to adaptive equipment, job development/placement, registration assistance, special parking and specialized instruction.

You can find a list of DSPS for each campus here.

Homeless Emergency Aid Program

Q: I have heard that the recently passed state budget included $500 million in funding for homelessness and that $25 million is set aside for homeless youth. How can I find out how much is available to my community and how to apply for it?

A: Yes, on June 27, 2018, Governor Brown signed SB 850 which established the Homeless Emergency Aid Program. The program is administered by the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council (HCFC) within the California Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency. According to the HCFC website, a NOFA will be issued in late summer providing local jurisdictions with information about how to access the funding. To make sure that you stay informed about the issuance of the NOFA, sign up for their informational notices HERE.

SB 850 requires no less than five percent of the funding is required to be used to “establish or expand services meeting the needs of homeless youth or youth at risk of homelessness.” The total amount of funding available is $500 million, which means an estimated $25 million will be dedicated to homeless youth.  John Burton Advocates for Youth will be providing information about the five-percent requirement as it becomes available. Until then, we recommend you take the following steps:

  • Step 1: Make contact with your local Continuum of Care: You may already know about this group and be involved in their work. If not, the first step is identifying what entity coordinates your Continuum of Care. Most Continuums of Care meet on a monthly basis. Find out when yours meets, go to the next meeting, and raise the topic of the Homeless Emergency Aid Program and the 5% homeless youth requirement. Find the contact here.
  • Step 2: Find out how many youth were homeless in your 2017 Point in Time Count, the growth over time, and how many were unsheltered. This will be important information to make the case that funding is needed. Find that figure here.
  • Step 3: Consider partnering with organizations that are active in your Continuum of Care, if you are not currently a grantee. For example, there may be a housing provider that receives HUD funding to operate a Rapid Rehousing model for adults. Consider applying for funding from the Homeless Emergency Aid Program to subcontract with them to provide Rapid Rehousing services to for homeless youth.
  • Step 4: Find out how much money your administrative entity has for homeless youth. Again, the requirement is that the administrative entity use no less than 5% on homeless youth. Advocate for more if possible. Encourage your administrative entity to make a large request, which will increase the amount of the homeless youth set-aside. The exact amount of funding will be based on how many administrative entities apply, but you can find an estimate here.
  • Step 5: Watch for the NOFA to be issued by HCFC by the end of the summer. SB 850 requires applications to be submitted by December 31, 2018, but there is nothing preventing them from being required earlier. You can make sure not to miss the NOFA release by signing up for the HCFC listserv.
  • Step 6: Check to see how much was issued and whether your jurisdiction can apply again. If allowable, be ready to submit another application.
  • Step 7: Stay on top of this process and establish accountability mechanisms to ensure that 5% of the Homeless Emergency Aid Program is going to homeless youth. The law requires it, but the accountability mechanism in SB 850 is not strong. To ensure these funds serve homeless youth will require local advocates playing an active role.

For more information about the  Homeless Emergency Aid Program, follow this LINK.

Housing Resources for Youth who Exited Foster Care at Age 16

Q: I exited foster care to guardianship at age 16. I am now 22 and am homeless. I understand that because I was not in care on my 18th birthday that I am not eligible for the THP-Plus program. Are there any housing resources that I might be eligible for?

A: Yes, you might be able to access a Family Unification Program (FUP) voucher to assist with the cost of housing, if there are vouchers available in your area. FUP is a program under which Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs), also commonly known as Section 8 vouchers, are provided to:

  • Families for whom the lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in either the imminent placement of the family’s children in out-of-home care or delay in the discharge of the children to the family from out-of-home care.
  • Youth at least 18 years old and not more than 24 years old who left foster care at age 16 or older or will leave foster care within 90 days and are homeless or at risk of homelessness.* FUP vouchers used by youth are limited to 36 months of housing assistance.

*For information about the definition of “at risk of homelessness,” see a FUP factsheet by HUD.

Currently, 33 housing authorities in California administer 3,159 FUP vouchers in partnership with their county child welfare agencies. In addition to rental assistance provided through the voucher, the child welfare agency provides supportive services to the youth for the first 18 months.

For transition-age former foster youth, the child welfare agency initially determines if the youth meets the FUP eligibility requirements, certifies that the youth is eligible, and refers those youth to the housing authority. Once child welfare makes the referral, the housing authority places the FUP applicant on its HCV waiting list and determines whether the youth meets HCV program eligibility requirements.

Income eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by the housing authority based on the total annual gross income and family size compared with the HUD-established income limits for the area. In general, the youth’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income (very low-income limit) for the county or metropolitan area in which the family or youth chooses to live. Median income levels are published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For example, for the State of California, the Very Low-Income Limit for a household of one is $27,150/year, however when calculated by county it will vary.

To find out whether FUP vouchers are available in your area, contact the Independent Living Program (ILP) at your county’s child welfare agency, or your local housing authorities. Click HERE for a list of ILP coordinators by county, or HERE for a list of city and county housing authorities in California. For more information about the process after a youth receives a FUP voucher, read the FUP factsheet by HUD.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has introduced legislation to permanently reauthorize $200 million annually for FUP vouchers. For more information about the bill, read a recent press release.

Citation:  

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Office of Housing Voucher Programs. Fact Sheet, Housing Choice Voucher Program, Family Unification Program. https://www.hud.gov/sites/documents/FUP_FACT_SHEET.PDF

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. Income Limits. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/il.html

IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter

Q: I assisted an 18-year-old with her FAFSA. She reported on her FAFSA that she didn’t file taxes, but is now being asked by her college to submit an IRS Verification of Nonfiling Letter. I’ve never heard of this form before. How do I assist the student with submitting it? 

A: The FAFSA now uses “prior-prior” year tax data, so for the 2018-2019 school year, 2016 taxes would be used. Many students do not file taxes because they have earned less than the standard deduction. Students applying for the 2018-2019 academic school year who did not file taxes may now be required to submit an IRS Verification of Non-Filing Letter. This letter confirms that the IRS has not received a federal income tax return from the individual. The Verification of Nonfiling Letter is not an indication that the person is not required to file a return, just that they did not file one.

To obtain an IRS Verification of NonFiling Letter, the student will need to request an IRS Tax Return Transcript. This can be a complicated process and many students will need assistance.

1. A student can request their transcript online at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript. Through this website the student can either have their transcript sent to them online or via mail.

  • To obtain a transcript online, the student must satisfy certain security requirements such as owning a cell phone with their name on the account and having a credit card, auto loan or mortgage in their name. These requirements may be difficult for many students to satisfy and therefore they may need to request their transcript be sent to them via mail.
  • To have the transcript mailed via the online tool, it will take 5-10 days to receive the tax transcript. Generally, there will be no address on file with the IRS if the student has never filed taxes. In this case, the letter will be mailed to the current address they provide. However, the IRS may already have the student’s address in their system, such as from W-2 or 1099 statements or a prior tax return. In this case, the mailing address on the form must match the address on file with the IRS. If the student’s current mailing address does not match the address on file with the IRS, the student should first file IRS Form 8822 to change their address, which will take approximately 10 days.
  • Students may also call the IRS automated phone transcript service at 800-908-9946 to order a tax return or tax account transcript to be sent by mail.

2. Alternately, the student can complete IRS Form 4506-T on paper, check box 7 and send this form by mail or fax. On line 5 of IRS Form 4506-T the student can specify that the Verification of Nonfiling Letter be sent to a third-party address. In most cases the student should have it sent to themselves, not directly to the college. However, it is best to ask each college what they prefer. If a student submits this paper form by mail, it will take 7-14 days to be processed.

Note that there is no fee for obtaining the Verification of Nonfiling Letter or a tax transcript. If the student says there is a $50 fee, they are filing the wrong form. The form that is required is IRS Form 4506-T, not IRS Form 4506.

How does a student verify their status as a homeless youth for financial aid?

Q: I’m working with a youth who has been in and out of shelters and couch surfing. I understand from helping him complete his FAFSA that as a homeless youth, he qualifies as an independent student. What will he need to provide to the school to verify this?

A: Other than a financial aid administrator, there are three authorized authorities that can verify that he “was determined at any time since July 1, 2017 [year prior to the award year], to be an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.” These authorities are:

  • a school district homeless liaison
  • the director (or designee) of an emergency shelter or transitional housing program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • the director (or designee) of a runaway or homeless youth (RHY) basic center or transitional living program

These three authorities can submit a homeless youth determination letter on behalf of the student. (Here is a letter template from National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth & a letter template from SchoolHouse Connection).

If he is a current high school student, he should ask for a letter from the school district homeless liaison. Or, if he is currently a resident in a RHY-funded shelter or transitional living program or HUD-funded shelter or transitional housing program, he should ask the director (or someone the director designates) to provide the letter.

Additionally, these authorities are now permitted to write determination letters for homeless youth for subsequent years as long as they have the necessary information to write such letters. This means if he is no longer in high school but still has relationship with the homeless liaison from his former high school, or was previously a resident in a RHY- or HUD-funded shelter or transitional living/housing program, he should visit the school or program to request a letter. Note that school district homeless liaisons can only write letters for youth up through age 23.

If he is not able to get a letter from any of the three aforementioned authorities, then he needs to visit the financial aid office at his college so that the financial aid administrator (FAA) can make the determination. The FAA may make the determination based on help from third parties, or, if there is no written documentation available from third parties, a documented interview with the student suffices.

Citation: U.S. Department of Education. 2018-19 Federal Student Aid Handbook, Application & Verification Guide. https://ifap.ed.gov/fsahandbook/attachments/1819FSAHbkAVG.pdf

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