H.R. 1511, the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA), passed the Financial Services Committee with a 39-18 vote on Tuesday, July 24. The passage allows the bill to be considered by the entire House of Representatives.
Though this legislation still has to go through the House and Senate for votes, this is a big step in bipartisanship. In rare display, the vote shows that lawmakers can indeed come together to address the challenges local communities are experiencing with homelessness.
Young moms with small infants and toddlers staying in unsafe shelters, or families housed in motels which also provide emergency housing to registered sex offenders is commonplace. That’s because under current U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policy, these homeless children and parents are not considered homeless. According to HUD’s definition, they are sheltered, and therefore, not homeless. Rather than defining homelessness as a condition based on vulnerability, HUD defines homelessness as having a roof over one’s head.
Here is why the Homeless Children and Youth Act is important:
- HR 1511 provides a more accurate count of those affected by homelessness.
The HUD definition of “homeless” is inconsistent with other federal agencies. It particularly discriminates against children and youth who are not counted – living in motels, couch surfing, or double-upped in a small living space. HCYA would expand HUD’s definition of “homeless” to include all children and youth who are already verified as homeless by other federal agencies.
The data for the count would come from the federal programs that are already identifying and serving populations outside of HUD’s definition, and would not require any additional cost. Instead, it would simplify data and improve interagency collaboration.
“Families who are truly vulnerable will be counted and served, but if we cannot quantify the problem with youth homelessness, we can never solve it.” stated Representative Strivers, author of the Bill.
- HCYA is an upstream approach to homelessness.
While the legislation focuses on children and youth, it will ultimately reduce homelessness among all populations. Child and youth homelessness is a key contributor to adult homelessness. HUD’s regulations and HUD’s NOFA scoring excludes anyone who is not staying in a shelter or not living outside from homeless assistance services.
As the recent ground breaking national study conducted by the Voices of Youth Count found, adult homelessness often starts early in life. The study shows that a majority of homeless young adults experienced homelessness in childhood or adolescence. That is why the current system of waiting until people have suffered long enough to deserve services is unacceptable.
This legislation contributes to the long-term prevention of a complex societal problem. Failing to address youth and family homelessness, practically guarantees that the number of chronically homeless adults continues to increase.
- This legislation will allow communities to best serve their own unique needs.
HR 1511 allows communities to provide assistance using models tailored to the unique needs of each homeless population in their community.
“The Bill doesn’t prevent Housing First, it doesn’t prevent any specific community from helping their most vulnerable – any community can address homelessness, but this allows families and youth to be assessed.” stated Representative Strivers.
Federal policies make it nearly impossible for local communities to help those in their community who are in need, such as families and youth. Many programs have lost funding as a result.
Our communities, providers, and educators are desperate to solve these problems. To better serve communities and populations such as families and youth, HUD’s definition must change and programs that serve youth-headed families must be prioritized in homelessness assistance policy. To accomplish these goals, Congress should pass the Homeless Children and Youth Act, HR 1511/S 611.