Facts About the Homeless Children and Youth Act (H.R. 5186/S. 2653)
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The Problem: Government Red Tape Denies Homeless Children and Youth the Help They Need
The U.S. Department of Health and Urban Development’s (HUD) current definition of homelessness excludes most children and youth who are actually homeless: those staying in motels or temporarily with others because they have nowhere else to go. Over 1.1 million homeless students were identified by public schools last year.
Families with children and youth who are on their own often must stay temporarily in motels or with others because there is no family or youth shelter in the community, shelters are full, or because shelter policies exclude them. Many have serious health, safety, and other problems.
HUD’s policy excludes children and youth who face real harm, including negative emotional, educational, and health outcomes; it also increases their risk of physical and sexual abuse and trafficking.
Other federal programs – including domestic violence, health, youth, education, and early childhood programs – recognize these children and youth as homeless.
HUD forces communities seeking homelessness funding to prioritize single adults, even if the need in their community is greater among families and youth.
HUD’s data is incomplete and contributes to the invisibility of homeless children and youth. Lack of accurate information prevents local and state action to assist these children and youth.
- A 17-year-old Michigan boy was raped by the person he was staying with, but could not leave because he had nowhere else to go.
- A toddler in Louisiana developed a serious skin infection due to carpet conditions at the motel where his family stayed. By the age of 2, he wasn’t walking.
- A 16-year-old in Washington state dropped out of school in order to work to pay for the motel rooms where her family of five stayed while fleeing domestic violence.
- When her parents died, a 13-year-old girl in Ohio became homeless and was moving from couch to couch. A man promised her stable housing, and then trafficked her.
The Solution: The Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2014 (H.R. 5186 and S. 2653)
Amends HUD’s definition of homelessness to include children and youth who are verified as homeless through HUD’s homeless assistance programs and through other federal programs such as Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, Violence Against Women programs, and public school district homeless liaisons.
Eliminates complex documentation requirements for “proving” homelessness, such as evidence of multiple moves, or the length of time spent without housing. Under the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA), a HUD homeless service provider could make a simple determination that a family or youth in a motel, or staying temporarily with others, is eligible, or accept a referral from another federal program.
Prohibits HUD from overriding local communities. Local service providers are the best equipped to evaluate which homeless populations have the greatest unmet needs, and where federal homelessness resources are best targeted.
Amends federal homeless data collection and reporting requirements to ensure that data currently collected on all homeless children, youth, and families is made available to the public, providing an accurate and honest accounting of homelessness in America.
Contains no new mandates, and costs nothing. Whether newly eligible families and youth receive services would depend on communities’ assessments of their own needs.
The Homeless Children and Youth Act will help over one million homeless children and youth lead safer, healthier lives and have a better chance for a brighter future. And it will make government work better, by ensuring that the federal government’s response to homelessness is based on an honest and accurate understanding of the problem, and by empowering those closest to the problem to design and implement the best local response.