Category Archives: Homeless youth

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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