Bipartisan Response to Growing Child and Youth Homelessness Introduced
Washington – Advocates today applauded the introduction of bipartisan legislation to eliminate bureaucratic obstacles that deny federal assistance to nearly one million homeless children and youth.
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that nearly 1.3 million children and youth in America are homeless. Children and youth face the same problems as other homeless Americans, including hunger, health problems, and increased risk of exploitation and violence. But because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) uses a different definition of “homeless” than other federal agencies, the bulk of the nation’s homeless children and youth cannot get basic HUD-funded assistance. HUD’s definition and associated paperwork requirements practically exclude many homeless families from a safe place to stay, employment assistance, help finding housing, counseling, and help accessing health care and child care.
The Homeless Children and Youth Act, sponsored in the United States Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Steve Stivers (R-Ohio-15) and Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa-2nd), would eliminate the definitional obstacle and funding restrictions that effectively deny most homeless children and youth basic assistance. The bill would not require local governments and nonprofits receiving HUD funds to prioritize children and youth over adults, but it would empower local leaders to serve all homeless people and end current policies that deny most homeless children and youth the same assistance available to homeless adults.
Organizations endorsing the legislation included the First Focus Campaign for Children, the National Network for Youth, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, and Covenant House. Responding to the bill’s introduction, these organizations released the following statement by First Focus Campaign for Children president, Bruce Lesley:
“HUD denies help to nearly a million homeless children and youth who live every day with hunger, trauma, exploitation and violence. This bill offers a bipartisan plan to level the playing field, so Washington bureaucrats can no longer deny homeless people help just because they’re young.”
The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org.
The National Network for Youth (NN4Y) is the nation’s leading network of homeless and runaway youth programs. The Network champions the needs of runaway, homeless, and other disconnected youth through strengthening the capacity of community-based services, facilitating resource sharing, and educating the public and policy makers. NN4Y’s members serve homeless youth across the country, working collaboratively to prevent youth homelessness and the inherent risks of living on the streets, including exploitation, human trafficking, criminal justice involvement, or death. For more information, visit www.nn4youth.org.
The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth is a national membership association dedicated to supporting the educational success of children and youth experiencing homelessness. NAEHCY connects educators, service providers, advocates, families and youth to ensure school attendance and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by homelessness. NAEHCY accomplishes its mission through advocacy, partnerships, and education. For more information, visit www.naehcy.org.
The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) links housing resources and knowledge to child welfare agencies in order to improve family functioning, prevent family homelessness, and reduce the need for out-of-home placement. NCHCW also brings housing resources to child welfare agencies in order to ensure that older youth in foster care have a connection to permanent family as well as a solid plan for stable housing and services to help them be successful as adults.
Covenant House was founded in 1972 with the simple, profound mission to help homeless kids escape the streets. Today we are the largest privately funded charity in the Americas providing loving care and vital services to homeless, abandoned, abused, trafficked, and exploited youth.