The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is the first university in the nation to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to launch a rapid-rehousing program for college students with a history of foster care. The $1.22 million grant will fund a program that will support young adults with a history of foster care who are pursuing postsecondary education and are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
The Bexar County Fostering Educational Success (BCFES) Housing First Project aims to address critical housing needs of at least 25 students each year, who are pursuing a college degree at one of the three public postsecondary institutions in Bexar County–UTSA, Texas A&M University-San Antonio (A&M-SA) or the Alamo Colleges District (ACD).
The Housing First Program is part of the Bexar County Fostering Educational Success Pilot Project, which includes partnerships between UTSA, A&M-SA, ACD, Bexar County Children’s Court, Child Advocates San Antonio and Family Tapestry/The Children’s Shelter to create educational support resources for current and former foster care youths by enhancing programs and practices and developing targeted support to increase college access, enrollment, and retention and graduation rates.
Coupled with the coaching and resources of BCFES’s existing campus-based support program staff and community partners, the Housing First Program will assist students with rental assistance and wrap-around support for 12-24 months, to support their ability to complete a college degree.
The innovative rapid-rehousing model includes peer advocacy, supportive case management, assistance with moving costs, rent and utility deposits, child care, mental health services, legal services and life skill development, in addition to the strong focus on educational support and degree completion. The San Antonio Bar Association, Jewish Family Service, and Thrive Youth Center are additional partners providing supportive services for the BCFES Housing First Program.
“We are thrilled that UTSA and the Bexar County Fostering Educational Success Pilot Project are leading this collaborative effort. Housing is a critical need for so many students with a history of foster care, and this program will provide the holistic support they need to pursue their dreams of a higher education,” said Taylor and Peggy Eighmy, President and First Lady of UTSA
UTSA assistant professor of social work and principal investigator for the grant, Megan Piel, believes this funding will have an incredible impact on the university and the surrounding community.
“This collaborative effort to address youth and young adult homelessness will have a collective impact on our community, and improve outcomes by addressing a critical housing need that influences educational and long-term success,” Piel said. “In addition to serving as a model for other communities, this project addresses a significant gap in research with youth and young adult experiences of homelessness and transitions to postsecondary education for students with a history of foster care.”
The BCFES Housing First Project is part of the $6.88 million Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) grant, awarded to the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless (SARAH) in 2019. UTSA also is part of that larger community awareness campaign – The Movement to House All Youth – to prevent and end youth homelessness in San Antonio.