Homeless youth bill would improve access to services and advance equityHousing & Homelessness
First Focus Campaign for Children, SchoolHouse Connection, National Network for Youth, Family Promise, and Covenant House International applaud the introduction of the bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act by Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) and Van Taylor (R-TX).
Children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness historically have been excluded from federal homelessness assistance administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as they do not meet restrictive eligibility requirements and HUD-imposed priorities. Most children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness stay with others temporarily, or in motels/hotels, due to lack of alternatives and/or fear. These situations are highly volatile, oftentimes unsafe, and due to systemic inequities, affect children of color disproportionately. According to an analysis of data from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nearly 30% of high school students who are homeless and staying temporarily with other people are Hispanic/Latino, while 23% are Black or African American. Despite being recognized as homeless by other federal agencies and having high levels of vulnerability, these children, youth, and families are not eligible to be assessed for and subsequently receive HUD homeless assistance. If HCYA were enacted, 83,311 more high school students of color would be eligible for homeless assistance (compared to approximately 51,000 more white students).
The outbreak of COVID-19 has exacerbated this problem by putting additional children and youth in homeless situations and increasing threats to the safety and well-being of children and youth already experiencing homelessness. Homelessness during a pandemic is particularly dangerous and harmful, as families and youth who are forced to stay with others cannot social distance, move frequently, and face barriers to remote learning and other services.
The Homeless Children and Youth Act would reform HUD homeless assistance to better meet the needs of children, youth, and families. It would amend HUD’s definition of homelessness for children and youth to align with other federal definitions of homelessness, allowing children, youth, and families to access services and advancing racial equity. The legislation also would allow communities to prioritize HUD funds based on their local needs, and improve HUD data by requiring communities to include children, youth, and families in the newly amended definition of homelessness in local counts.
In addition to First Focus Campaign for Children, SchoolHouse Connection, National Network for Youth, Family Promise, and Covenant House, more than 50 national organizations and 100s of state and local organizations support this legislation.
First Focus Campaign for Children, Bruce Lesley, President
“The pandemic increased the number of children and youth experiencing homelessness as well as the danger associated with homelessness. The bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act is an absolutely necessary piece of legislation that will ensure that families with children experiencing homelessness — who were largely passed over for HUD federal assistance in COVID relief packages — receive the help and protection they need.”
SchoolHouse Connection, Barbara Duffield, Executive Director
“Now more than ever, HUD homeless assistance must be reformed to reflect how children and youth experience homelessness. Their homelessness is more hidden, but not less harmful. Bringing HUD in line with federal early care and education programs will not only remove barriers to assistance, it also will help communities leverage all available resources to stabilize some of our nation’s most vulnerable children, youth, and families.”
National Network for Youth, Darla Bardine, Executive Director
“HUD homeless assistance is not accessible to people in hidden-homeless situations- such as youth who are couch surfing. Under current HUD policy, children and youth in such living situations are not even assessed for services and subsequently not able to access HUD homeless assistance. HCYA would change that so that no other young person experiencing homelessness would face barrier after barrier when trying to get help.”
Family Promise, Claas Ehlers, Chief Executive Officer
“For far too many children, their housing status defines their future. HCYA is critical legislation to ensure families can have housing and children can have opportunity.”
Kevin Ryan, President & CEO of Covenant House
“We thank Reps. Mikie Sherrill and Van Taylor and the Senate champions for leading the effort to align HUD’s definition of homelessness with definitions used by other federal programs, so our most vulnerable youth are not excluded. Compounded by the pandemic, too many young people- especially youth of color, LGBTQ+ youth and those who are transitioning from our nation’s foster care system- face unfathomable choices which result in leaving their homes, living on the streets, and experiencing life long trauma. We can and must do better for all young people and especially for those who are most at risk of experiencing homelessness.”
Joann Bjornson, CEO Family Promise Morris County quote
“The Homeless Children and Youth act, known as HCYA, does several important things- allows communities to decide how to spend federal dollars so it makes sense for them; changes the definition of homelessness, so all groups experiencing homelessness have equal access to resources; and addresses glaring systemic inequities for families and youth of color who continue to be disproportionately affected by housing insecurity.”