What is HR 32, the Homeless Children and Youth Act?
The Homeless Children and Youth Act, H.R. 32, is bipartisan legislation introduced by Representative Judy Biggert (R-13th/IL) that would make it easier for homeless children, youth, and families to receive homeless assistance, no matter where they happen to be staying. Click here to read this two-page bill.
H.R.32 amends the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition of homelessness to include children, youth, and their families who are already verified as homeless under four federal programs. These four programs use a more inclusive definition of homelessness that reflects reality and acknowledges the unique developmental needs of children and youth. In contrast, HUD’s definition of homelessness is narrow – for the most part, limited to people on the streets or in shelters.
The four programs empowered to make verifications under H.R. 32 include 1) school districts (through the homeless liaisons designated under the education subtitle of the McKinney-Vento Act); 2) Head Start programs; 3) Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs; and 4) Early Intervention programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
HR 32 also ensures that these children, youth, and families are included in HUD’s homeless count.
What Situations Are Considered Homeless by These Four Federal Programs?
These programs use a definition of homelessness that includes families, children, and youth who have lost their housing and are staying in temporary, unstable situations – hotel rooms when their parents can afford it, on someone’s couch for a short while because there they have nowhere else to go. This definition of homelessness does not consider families or youth who have stable, voluntary, shared living arrangements to be homeless.
What Threats Do These Homeless Children and Youth Face?
Living temporarily in motels or with others, is extremely unstable and very often unsafe. These situations are damaging to child and youth development – they destroy the structure, routine, privacy, and consistency that are necessary for children and youth to grow up healthy. These arrangements put children and youth at risk of physical abuse, health problems, mental health problems, and educational deficits. These situations may create the greatest barriers to services and to safety, because they are hidden. The stress of staying with others out of necessity, or in motels, may have lifelong impacts that predispose children and youth to many problems as adults – including homelessness.
What Help Might These Homeless Children and Youth Get Under H.R. 32?
Under H.R. 32, homeless children, youth, and families who are referred by four programs would be eligible for HUD Homeless Assistance services, including permanent housing, transitional shelter, or supports like job training, mental health, and substance abuse treatment – services they desperately need to escape homelessness.
Why Don’t We See More Homeless Children and Youth on the Street?
Parents fear losing custody of their children when they sleep on the street, so they seek any living situation that can keep their families intact. Youth who are homeless on their own – unaccompanied youth – are often try to stay “under the radar,” so they are invisible to child welfare and other authorities. Many homeless families with children and unaccompanied youth are forced into motels or other temporary situations because there is no family or youth shelter available in the community, shelters are full, or because shelter policies separate the family, or prohibit unaccompanied minors.
How Many Children and Youth Might Be Eligible for HUD Homeless Services Under H.R. 32?
Based on available program data from the McKinney-Vento Act Education for Homeless Children and Youth program, Head Start, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, and Early Intervention programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, an estimated 762,000 homeless children and youth might be newly eligible for HUD Homeless Services under H.R.32. Not all of these children and youth will need HUD homeless services. However, H.R. 32 will cut through the red tape and streamline referrals for those who do. Any other estimate is wrong. Read a full explanation of the estimate.
How Much Would H.R. 32 Cost?
H.R. 32 would cost nothing. It creates no mandates. HUD Homeless Assistance programs are not entitlement programs. This means that there is no requirement to provide services. H.R. 32 simply allows children and youth who are identified as homeless by other federal programs to be eligible for HUD homeless services if they need those services – without burdensome red tape. Whether newly eligible children and youth would receive HUD services would depend on the local providers’ assessments of local needs.
Why is HR32 Needed Now?
HR 32 is needed now because HUD’s complex rules stand in the way of vulnerable kids getting help. Read more about why this legislation is urgently necessary .
Click here for a PDF document of this fact sheet.