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