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HUD policy improvements create opportunities for youth at Mile High United Way to gain stability

Just two hours before 20-year-old Gloria, a participant in Mile High United Way’s Bridging the Gap program, heard that her housing voucher was extended, she was brainstorming about finding a second job in order to plan for the expiration of her housing voucher. Facing a difficult affordable housing market in Denver, CO, Gloria worried she wouldn’t have a safe and stable home for her family.  

“It could not have come at a better time,” Gloria said. “One of my biggest stressors was gone. It was a life-changing call, and definitely, yes, definitely the best call I’ve gotten in my whole, entire life. I feel really lucky.”

Gloria entered foster care at age 15. After transitioning from a group foster home at age 18, Gloria chose to participate in Mile High United Way’s Bridging the Gap program. With help from Mile High United Way’s Family Unification Program (FUP) voucher, she and her young son were finally living in their own apartment. 

The year-and-a-half duration of her housing voucher sounded like a lifetime at first. But, she says, the time flew by. During the 18 months of her housing voucher, Gloria found full-time work, focused on being a great mom, and learned to navigate young adulthood.

For Gloria, the voucher extension means 18 additional months to work with her Mile High United Way Independent Living Coach to learn and practice skills that will stabilize her family and keep them in affordable housing.

“I’m so thankful, and now that I realize 18 months passes so quickly, I want to use the time even better the second time,” she said.  

Policy changes like the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016 give youth like Gloria greater opportunity to work towards educational advancements, employment opportunities, and financial stability. This policy change addresses the unique needs of youth both in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and removes barriers to their success. These partnerships create long-term and systemic change and not only assist youth participating in the program, but this two-generation approach will ultimately build stronger families.