H.R. 1511 Breaks Down Barriers to Help Homeless Children and Youth

Yesterday, the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance conducted a legislative hearing on H.R. 1511, the “Homeless Children and Youth Act.” This is an important piece of legislation because it will amend the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to meet the needs of homeless children, youth, and families, and honor the assessments and priorities of local communities.

The hearing highlighted the discrepancies between how homelessness is defined by different federal agencies, and the impact of the overly restrictive definition used by HUD. The HCYA would align HUD Homeless Assistance eligibility criteria with other federal programs, so that communities can properly serve homeless children, youth, and families they identify as most in need of assistance.

Witnesses for the hearing included our own Ms. Barbara Duffield, Executive Director, SchoolHouse Connection, Ms. Kat Lilley, Deputy Executive Director, Family Promise of Colorado Springs, Ms. Millie Rounsville, Chief Executive Officer, Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency, and Mr. Steve Berg, Vice President, Programs and Policy, National Alliance to End Homelessness.

We had three strong voices for families, children, and youth. Ms. Kat Lilley, recapped the difficulty of navigating the homeless assistance systems we currently have. In 2013, she became homeless and was unable to secure housing or any housing resources for herself and six children. When she tried reaching out to homeless shelters, she was told there were no shelters available for a family of her size. Having felt the shame and fear that comes along with being homeless she states, “We must stop excluding children and youth from the conversations and allow them to have equal access to the current housing assistance and services. The HCYA does just this.”

Rep. Steve Strivers (R-OH) who introduced the bill stated, “no child should ever be without a home, let alone be forced to navigate bureaucratic red tape just to prove that they are actually homeless.”

To watch the full hearing, click here.