Bill Reintroduction is a Victory for 1.2 Million Homeless Kids

Housing & Homelessness

In a strong display of bipartisan, bicameral leadership, the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017 was reintroduced today by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA).

This legislation portrays the recognition from both sides of the aisle in Congress that the current strategy in the U.S. to address child and youth homelessness is not working. Child and youth homelessness has been skyrocketing in the U.S. since the recession – over 1.2 million homeless students were identified by the U.S. Department of Education in the 2014-2015 school year, which is a 34 percent increase since the end of the recession in the summer of 2009 and many of these children and unaccompanied youth are excluded from receiving federal homeless assistance.

Homelessness is both a symptom and cause of trauma for children and families. Homelessness in any form, for even a short period of time, is traumatic for a child. Homelessness causes instability in a child’s life, resulting in multiple moves and overcrowded living situations. Too often, homelessness puts children and youth directly at-risk of physical harm and abuse. Families often become homeless due to traumatic experiences such as job loss, substance abuse, mental health issues, and domestic violence.

A new report from the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness found that 1 in 3 high school students in New York City that has attempted suicide is homeless and over 40 percent of homeless teens struggle with depression, a rate 12 percentage points higher than their housed peers.

We need an approach that addresses the true nature of child, youth and family homelessness, which is different than adult homelessness. Homeless families with children and unaccompanied youth stay wherever they can and are often forced to move frequently between living situations – temporarily with others in often precarious, or even dangerous situations, shelters, their car, or run-down motels.

The Homeless Children and Youth Act acknowledges the complex and fluid nature of child, youth and family homelessness by providing flexibility to local communities to use federal homeless assistance in a way that allows them to make the determination as to who are the most vulnerable homeless children, youth and families in their region and target existing resources to them. The legislation recognizes that homelessness can’t be solved through housing alone, and any attempts to address child, youth and family homelessness requires collaboration from early childhood programs, institutions of higher education, and local educational agencies.

Finally, it recognizes that federal funding alone can’t solve this problem. The Homeless Children and Youth Act helps to make these families and unaccompanied youth more visible through increased data transparency and more accurate counts, which helps communities illustrate their need and leverage and attract more private resources to address homelessness.

For more information on this legislation and ways to take action, see the resources below and visit helphomelesskidsnow.org.

Press Release: Advocates Applaud Bipartisan Legislation to Address Child and Youth Homelessness

Fact Sheet: The Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017

Fact Sheet: Using Federal Funding to Effectively Meet Local Needs

Take Action on HCYA 2017