The goals of the DFPS Housing Program within the Transitional Living Services Division are to 1) assist in locating housing for as many youth as possible, and 2) end homelessness for those transitioning from foster care to a successful adulthood.
The strategies to achieve these goals include:
- Providing information and training about rental assistance programs and voucher options throughout Texas.
- Creating materials and this dedicated webpage to share related information.
- Designating regional housing liaisons as local points of contacts.
- Conducting outreach to public housing authorities and increasing partnerships.
- Increasing referrals to these rental assistance programs.
- Supporting additional housing options, such as the Supervised Independent Living (SIL) program, Transitional Center Housing programs, Transitional Independent Living programs, and traditional Housing Choice Voucher programs.
The Housing Program provides information to help youth transitioning from foster care to successful adulthood, including housing and rental assistance options. For eligible young adults (18 years of age up to 24), housing rental assistance programs should be a top priority.
Housing and Rental Assistance Opportunities at a Glance
Although rental assistance programs and screening for eligibility is suggested as the first step in exploring housing options, youth not ready for independent living and who are interested in further developing life skills to become self-sufficient may want to consider the Supervised Independent Living (SIL) Program. The SIL program can serve as bridge to housing rental assistance programs for eligible youth. For more information about the SIL program or applications, please contact Ophelia Jaushlin.
Another option for youth exiting foster care might include support and housing opportunities provided by Transition Centers.
Public housing authorities across the state provide rental assistance through housing vouchers. Two of these vouchers may be available in certain parts of the state to youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood who are at risk for homelessness. These vouchers are the Family Unification Program (FUP) Voucher, and the Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) Voucher. These programs are for youth 18-24 years of age and provide up to 36 months of rental assistance.
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs also administers a Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Program. This program is for youth with disabilities who are transitioning from foster care to adulthood and need rental assistance. For more information about this program, to follow up on applications, or to schedule a training to become a referral agent, email Kaitlin Devlin at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
For more information about the FUP, FYI and Section 811 rental assistance programs, see the section later on this page about applying to rental assistance programs.
Youth out of foster care might consider an independent transitional living program. Refer to this list of Transitional Independent Living Programs throughout Texas.
If youth-targeted rental assistance programs are not available, some Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) offer additional rental assistance programs that can be explored, including Housing Choice Vouchers, and some have Emergency Vouchers. These possibilities can be discussed directly with local public housing authorities where young adults plan to reside. In most cases, youth will have to be 18 to apply for traditional Housing Choice Vouchers.
In some areas, there are Continuum of Care (Coordinated Entry Programs) and nonprofit providers that offer emergency shelters, rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing programs. These programs are limited and often target those who are chronically disabled and homeless. Search for "Housing for the Homeless" on the web for similar programs in your area.
In all situations, affordable housing is limited, and the process can take time.
Therefore, preparing and planning for housing is critical.
Prepare and Plan for Housing
Youth are encouraged to prepare, plan, and assess housing readiness as early as possible, starting at age 16. Finding the right place to live (location), exploring housing options and rental assistance programs, determining eligibility, completing the applications, obtaining documentation, and securing a home takes effort and time.
It is important for youth to discuss all options and programs with caseworkers, circle of support teams, and PAL staff as soon as possible. Learn more about Preparing for Adult Living (PAL) Program. Your PAL workers can connect you with Transition Centers that provide additional services and resources related to housing, education, and employment. DFPS also has an Employment Program Specialist.
Location is important. Once youth know where they want to live, learning about available housing options, rental assistance programs, and wrap-around support in that area can be explored. Some areas offer a lot of resources and others do not, so young adults may need to be prepared and open to choosing another location that might offer the support and assistance needed to secure a home. Youth can prepare for housing by assessing housing readiness, creating a Housing Plan early (no later than 6 months prior to turning 18), and reviewing the plan often as part of service planning, circle of support meetings, and transitional planning.
One helpful resource for exploring location is the Affordable Housing Search Engine, where you can enter search criteria and find vacancies throughout the state of Texas. Another resource for finding affordable housing units, locating Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Public Housing Authorities offices, and finding homeless resources is the HUD Resource Locator.
Assess Housing Readiness
Once young adults leave foster care, they will need a place to live. Remember that young adults may remain in Extended Foster Care past the age of 18 if they meet certain eligibility criteria. Learn more about Extended Foster Care. When youth transition to adulthood, some financial assistance may be available to help them with starting out on their own. However, the financial assistance may not last long, and it will not cover all bills, so young adults will need to have a job or college financial assistance (in most cases).
See the Housing Readiness Handout for guidance.
In assessing housing readiness, the following items should be discussed:
- Are you able to live independently, or do you need additional support?
- Can you work, or are you eligible for SSI benefits?
- Can you cook, clean, and pay basic bills like rent, food, utilities, and transportation?
- Can you pay for incidentals like recreational activities, movies, and hobbies?
Preferences and logistics:
- Where do you want to live? Location is important.
- What housing options are you eligible for in this location?
- What properties are available?
- What is the application process for the places you are considering?
- How do you pay for your portion of rent and utilities?
Understanding housing terminology:
- What is a lease?
- What is a property manager, and how do you work with them?
- What are lease violations, and how do you resolve them?
- What is an inspection?
- What are your rights?
- What is Fair Housing?
- How do you terminate or renew a lease?
- Choose a location. Where do you want to live?
- Review support and rental assistance housing program options in this area.
- Determine eligibility.
- If eligible, complete applications. If not eligible, what else is available?
- Obtain required documentation.
- Is there a waitlist? Sign up for all waitlists.
- What is your plan if there is a waitlist or there are delays?
After a youth has assessed housing readiness, identified a location, explored housing availability and rental assistance options, and determined eligibility, everything should be organized in their Housing Plan. The plan should be completed at least 6 months prior to the youth turning 18 years of age.
Develop a Housing Plan
The Housing Plan should be a top priority. It can be completed at any time, but should be finished at least 6 months prior to turning 18 years of age. The Housing Plan should assess independent living skills, describe youth preferences (location, housing goals), and identify housing availability and rental assistance program options. It should also include obtaining the required documentation and completed rental assistance applications for submission when eligible. In most cases, youth can apply to these programs up to 90 days prior to turning 18 years of age.
The Housing Plan should include strategies for dealing with delays and waitlists and a backup plan to prevent homelessness should rental assistance be denied. The waitlists could include public housing authorities with high demand for assistance and apartments with no or limited vacancies. Youth should be encouraged to get on as many waitlists as possible to obtain housing.
Apply to Rental Assistance Programs
There are three youth-targeted rental assistance programs. Youth are encouraged to apply to these programs up to 90 days prior to turning 18 years of age. DFPS has 11 regions and each one has designated DFPS Regional Housing Liaisons that can provide support and assistance regarding these programs. The DFPS Housing Program mailbox is also available.
To learn about these programs, review the following websites, screening checklists, and other information:
Foster Youth to Independence (FYI)
Family Unification Program (FUP)
Section 811 Project Rental Assistance Program
This program is for youth with disabilities.
Note: Although most Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) have similar applications, intake processes, and required documentation, there are differences in approaches. It is best to contact the specific PHA and discuss their programs and requirements directly. For a complete list of Texas Public Housing Authorities, visit the Texas Housing Association website.
Texas Housing Assistance Line at 1-855-802-0014
This resource is available statewide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help people facing housing instability or homelessness, with a focus on people dealing with mental health or substance use issues. Trained consultants will refer callers to local housing resources, crisis services, local mental and behavioral health authorities, outreach, screening, assessment, and referral programs, as well as 2-1-1 as appropriate.
Resources on the Web
- Texas Foster Youth Justice Project
- Texas Network of Youth Services
- Texas Homeless Network
- Texas Youth Helpline
- National Alliance to End Homelessness
- National Network for Youth
The following contacts are available, based on your region:
- DFPS PAL Staff
- DFPS Regional Housing Liaisons
- Transition Centers
- Transitional Independent Living Programs
You may also reach out to the DFPS State Office Youth Housing Specialist, Jim Currier, MSW, at the Housing Program mailbox.
History and Program Oversight
Each year in Texas, nearly 1,200 foster children reach adulthood without returning home or being adopted (Murphy, 2020). According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, between 31% to 46% of youth will experience homelessness after leaving foster care by age 26 (McDonald, 2021). In 2019, the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) federal agency worked to synchronize the Family Unification Program (FUP) with child welfare transition planning to eliminate homelessness. This led to creating the new Foster Youth to Independence (FYI) rental assistance program. DFPS created the State Office Youth Housing Specialist position in April 2021 to assess, evaluate, organize, align, develop, and create a Housing Program statewide.
The information on this page is subject to change without notice. Please contact the local Public Housing Authorities or the DFPS Youth Housing Specialist for the most up to date information regarding the Housing Program.