Carroll County received 31 new housing vouchers to help people with disabilities and county staff hope to get 10 more vouchers that would keep families at risk of homelessness together.
The Board of Commissioners accepted $265,359 in annual funding to support 31 housing choice vouchers from the 2019 Mainstream Voucher Program on Thursday The commissioners also approved the application for 10 additional Family Unification Program (FUP) vouchers.
The Mainstream vouchers come from a new source of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding that became available last year, according to Danielle Yates, bureau chief of housing and community connections for Carroll. The county first applied for 75 vouchers in 2018, received 22, and were able to apply again in a second round this year, leading to the additional 31 vouchers, Yates said in an interview. Carroll intends to apply in the third round next year, hopefully bringing it closer to the desired 75 vouchers, according to Yates.
The Mainstream vouchers will benefit non-elderly people with disabilities who are transitioning out of institutional or other segregated settings, people who are at serious risk of institutionalization, homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, Director of Citizen Services Christine Kay told the commissioners. The county has partnered with agencies who serve people with disabilities, such as The Arc of Carroll County, to identify individuals who may be eligible for the Mainstream vouchers, Kay said.
In the past, Yates said in an interview, these people could apply for non-elderly disabled housing vouchers between the ages of 18 and 61, but those vouchers only benefit the individual. With Mainstream vouchers, a family who cares for an adult with a disability would be able to benefit from the voucher as well, according to Yates.
Unlike the Mainstream Voucher Program, FUP has been around for decades.
In the meeting, Yates said Carroll has been participating since about 1986, receiving 25 vouchers per year. This year, Carroll is hoping to increase that number by 10 to help youth aging out of foster care and families trying to keep their children from being sent to foster care. HUD has made $20 million available this year for new voucher assistance, according to the commissioners’ meeting agenda, and Carroll hopes to be a part of it.
FUP is for people ages 18 to 24 who left foster care or will leave within 90 days and is for families who are at risk of losing their children because of the imminent fact that they will become homeless, Yates said in an interview.
“The family unification voucher would allow them to stay in a home and be together,” Kay said to the commissioners.
Referrals for FUP vouchers have to come from the Department of Social Services, and Carroll County always has people on the wait list.
“We have 25 FUP vouchers and they are always fully leased at 100 percent," Yates said at the meeting. "We consistently hold a wait list on average, anywhere from 10 to 12 individuals sit on that wait list waiting for a FUP voucher.”
Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, asked how long people are typically on housing vouchers in Carroll. On average, people are able to relinquish their vouchers after five years, Yates said.
Yates estimates two months will pass before the county learns whether it will receive additional FUP vouchers, she said outside the meeting.
Commissioners unanimously approved both voucher requests, and Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, stopped to ask whether the staff have enough resources.
“My concern is, I’m not convinced that we are resourced appropriately," Rothstein said.
On average, their case managers work with about 300 individuals or families, Yates told Rothstein.
“If our numbers continue to increase, yes, we will be looking at probably needing to add a housing specialist eventually," Yates said.
Rothstein encouraged Kay and Yates to be “proactive” and keep the commissioners in the loop as needs arise.