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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – County supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a program to help young people at risk for homelessness.

The Housing Our Youth program “will focus on ending generational cycles of homelessness,” said board Chairman Greg Cox, who proposed it earlier this year.

If a young person is homeless, it’s hard to focus on education or much of anything else, Cox said.

“We have to intervene early in the course of a person’s life — the goal is to prevent them becoming homeless in the first place,” he said.

According to the county, HOY will provide specialized assistance throughout San Diego County to young people up to age 24 who are experiencing homelessness. The program will prioritize assistance for former foster throughout the county, including those who are also pregnant or parenting, and those who are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation or human trafficking.

The board directed Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer to utilize remaining Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention grant money to create the pilot program.

The program will cost $3 million in fiscal year 2020-21, followed by another $3 million in fiscal year 2021-22.

According to a county staff report posted to the board’s agenda, research indicates foster youth experience rates of homelessness ranging from 11% to 38%, disproportionately higher than that of the general population.

In San Diego County, a third of homeless youth in the county were in foster care, while 9% of homeless female youth are pregnant or parenting, the report says.