Housing program in Waterloo will soon help teens leaving state foster care

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG TV9)- A transitional housing program to help homeless single mothers with kids is about to hit a growth spurt in Waterloo. And part of the plan, eventually, will create a new program for teen women leaving state foster care.

This old dental office in Waterloo will soon become more transitional apartment housing for single mothers with children. Once that's finished, House of Hope will begin work on housing for teen women leaving state foster care.

An estimated 600 Iowa teens leave the state’s foster care system at age 18 every year with no real ongoing support. About 20 percent are homeless the day they leave state care.

Eighty percent of those teens will end up homeless at some point in their lives.

Karin Rowe, executive director of House of Hope in Waterloo says by the time an old dental office on West 4th Street is converted to 15 apartments, the program will grow by about 50 percent. And that should happen by next March.

Terry Seliga was one of the volunteers working on the office conversion on Wednesday.

“I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to participate in than something like this—this is just tremendous,” he said.

But for court officials who work with kids in foster care, it’s what will come next for House of Hope that gives them hope.

The existing program for single women with kids takes place in two buildings on Walnut Street. The city of Waterloo is purchasing one building for a new supermarket and once construction on the old dental office is finished all the existing participants and families will move.

That will leave one current building and work would then start on renovating that building for the teen women leaving foster care at age 18. The idea is giving them a first place to stay, some programming to help them succeed and, in general, a helping hand into adulthood. It should be ready by next June.

Cathy Rottinghaus, a court appointed special advocate, or CASA, for foster care children says without some help many of those leaving state care when they are too old will fail.

“A lot of things kids get from their parents, 24-7, growing up. When these kids come out of foster care the state has been their parent for at least several years usually and they’re kind of on their own,” Rottinghaus said.

Rowe, Hope House executive director, says beginning a first-ever such program for foster care teens in eastern Iowa seemed like a logical extension of what they do now.

“We’ll be helping those families stuck in the cycle and struggling for a very long time and then we’ll be supporting the young ladies most at risk in becoming young, homeless single mothers,” she said.

House of Hope has raised $1.4-million dollars for the project. Rowe says they’ll need to find $400,000 more to complete it.

One thing that would certainly help financing is a possible $25,000 grant from State Farm Insurance. House of Hope is one of 200 organizations nationwide competing for 40 such grants.

Winners are chosen by online voting and anyone can demonstrate their support for this Iowa project by logging on to

https://www.neighborhoodassist.com/entry/1996114

and voting for the House of Hope project.