Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Operation Unification provide permanent housing to foster youth in transition
Pilot program includes mentoring, credit counseling, home ownership classes

Contact: Contact: Gisgie Dávila Gendreau, MDHHS public relations director, (517) 373-7394

Sept. 9, 2010

FLINT - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in Genesee County has joined the Flint-based nonprofit Operation Unification Incorporated to provide permanent housing and other support to young people and families in transition from foster care to independence.

"Together, we're working to ensure that youth and families involved in the child welfare system have viable opportunities that encourage them to become successful individuals and rebuild their families as part of sustainable communities in Flint and the surrounding areas," said Stacie Bowens, Genesee County MDHHS child welfare director.

The pilot program is modeled after Operation Unification's existing program that provides support for families who are in need of housing. The program includes a tenant training workshop, as well as credit counseling, financial budgeting and parenting classes, and child care. The young people are also paired with a mentor to help them on their journey to success. For example, they will learn life skills that include the proper way to shop, clean and plan their budgets, as well as gain self-direction.

"Children are our future," said Charles Young, Jr., executive director of Operation Unification. "And once they transition from foster care to independence, they often have no idea how to budget their income or move on to college. We're trying to create an environment so they can succeed and position themselves to home ownership."

Operation Unification began finding homes for youth transitioning from foster care to independence this summer; so far, three foster youth were placed in homes successfully. The program will place 60 young people and families in single family homes and duplexes throughout Flint and surrounding communities.

Young said the program wouldn't be possible without community partnerships with service providers, including Metro Housing and MDHHS.

Those interested in the housing help must fill out an application at the Operation Unification office at 2050 Warner St. in Flint. Potential applicants need a minimal income to cover rent and other household expenses; rent begins at $375 a month for an individual and $500 a month for a family. While applicants do not need good credit, the program will help make them credit worthy after two years so they can eventually own the home.

For more information, please visit www.michigan.gov/fostercare or www.ougroups.net. Follow MDHHS on Twitter @MichiganDHS or become a fan at www.facebook.com/MichiganDHS.