Help for Houston's homeless who have aged out of foster care, thanks to HUD grant

No matter how many times you hear it or say it, the number is shocking. There are more than 112,000 Houstonians on the Houston Housing Authority waiting list. However, Houston's need for affordable housing isn't going unnoticed. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is giving the Bayou City a $1 million grant. It's for homeless youngsters who have aged out of foster care. 

“It can be life-changing,” says Mark Thiele, the senior vice president for the Houston Housing Authority.

Life hasn't been easy for Davion Sandifer after entering foster care at 3 years old. 

“I was molested for years. I was put in dog cages and fed bread and water. I was abused and pushed down the stairs,” Sandifer says.  Now, he's a 19-year-old high school senior. He aged out of foster care at 18 and doesn't have a home like the majority of teens who age out.

”About 75 percent of our youth come out of care with no real housing opportunities,” explains Joanquinita White, the housing program coordinator for the Houston Alumni and Youth Center.

”It’s very difficult, I have to say.  One of the most difficult things I’ve had to teach myself is to be self-motivated,” admits 20-year-old Alec Chester who, like most kids who age out of foster care, has no family to lean on.

Chester has lived in a Houston homeless shelter since aging out of foster care.  It was a day he had been dreading for years. 

“Being more alone. Also, not having stability, like a place to stay,” says Chester. 

”We’re damaged. We are passed along. We are treated less than. We have trust issues. We feel lost, confused,” adds Sandifer. 

Now, help has arrived for some who have aged out. 

“Their stories are often brutal. These are youth who have overcome tremendous obstacles. My heart goes out to them,” says Thiele. 

Houston competed for a HUD grant and placed third in the nationwide competition. 

“The max award was 89 vouchers. We were able to get 85,” explains Thiele. 

The 85 vouchers will pay for 70 percent of their rent if the youngster works and 100 percent if not, giving dozens who have aged out of foster care their very own apartment.

“It’s amazing. I’m super excited just to know I got approved. It’s definitely a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Sandifer says with a smile. 

“Am I excited? Oh, I don’t know where to start. Have my own rules, that sense of independence,” adds Chester. 

At last count, there were 300 Houston youngsters who aged out of foster care who needed their own home. This program will certainly help, but unfortunately, not everyone.