PORTLAND, Maine — Homelessness affects a number of people around Maine and thousands of people across the country.
While focus about the issue tends to reside on families or veterans experiencing homelessness, there is another particularly vulnerable group that's often less considered -- young people who are aging out of foster care.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show that nationally, 20,000 kids will age out of foster care every year by the age of 18.
Of those individuals, 25 to 30 percent will be homeless within four years.
The Housing and Urban Development Department is starting a new initiative to aid that problem by giving public housing vouchers to young people who are leaving or have recently left foster care and don't have a place to go.
On Friday, August 2, HUD New England Administrator David Tille joined local Portland officials at the Portland Housing Authority to announce the program.
"Young people who age out of foster care experience homelessness at a much higher rate than other young people," said Tille. "The same people face barriers in accessing housing assistance -- and that is just not acceptable."
Also present were Mayor Ethan Strimling, Mark Adelson (Portland Housing Authority Executive Director), and Leah McDonald (Director for the Teen Services Program at Preble Street).
"Youth homelessness is a serious and growing problem in Maine," said Adelson at the gathering. "Preventing young people from falling into homelessness with a home and support services is far more effective than trying to help them after the fact."
In more rural areas, HUD is offering tenant-protection vouching to certain housing authorities to make sure foster care kids around the state will have access to housing, if they need it.
In cities like Portland, where affordable housing is scarce, HUD says this program is especially needed.