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Advocates Applaud Bipartisan Legislation to Address Child and Youth Homelessness

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MARCH 14, 2017

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) –  The Homeless Children and Youth Act today was reintroduced in Congress, signaling a commitment by policymakers to prioritize the well-being of more than 1.2 million homeless children and  youth in the United States.

The bipartisan legislation is sponsored 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 re-tool federal homeless assistance delivered by HUD to allow communities to effectively use federal funding to meet the unique developmental needs of children, youth and families.

Specifically, it would allow communities to serve some of the most vulnerable homeless children, youth and families by aligning homeless assistance eligibility criteria with other federal programs, and by allowing communities to use available resources to provide housing and services tailored to the unique needs of each homeless population, according to local circumstances.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there were record levels of child and youth homelessness in the 2014-2015 school year; there was a 34 percent increase since the recession ended in the summer of 2009. Homelessness among unaccompanied youth saw the most marked increase, increasing by 20 percent over three years to reach 95,032.

Homelessness is associated with an 87 percent increased likelihood of a youth dropping out of school and data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that youth experiencing homelessness report significantly higher rates of victimization, hunger, PTSD, exposure to violence and suicidality than other students.

Child and youth homelessness is different than adult homelessness – homeless families with children and unaccompanied youth stay wherever they can and are often forced to move frequently between living situations. These situations often include motels, or with others temporarily, because there is no family or youth shelter in the community, shelters are full, or shelter policies exclude them. These situations are precarious, crowded, unstable and often unsafe, resulting in negative emotional and health outcomes for children and youth and putting them at risk of physical and sexual abuse and trafficking.

Child and youth serving systems, including early childhood programs and public schools, recognize all of the forms of homelessness that children and youth experience, but the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does not.  Instead, HUD homeless assistance eligibility criteria exclude some of the most vulnerable homeless children and youth from the programs and services that they need.

In a statement First Focus Campaign for Children President and CEO Bruce Lesley said, “Children and youth who are homelessness for even a short time experience trauma and at greater risk for negative health and developmental outcomes. Yet many homeless children and youth remain invisible in their communities and have been ignored by federal homeless assistance. We urge the new Administration to support this bipartisan bill, which allow local communities to use federal homeless assistance to identify and serve their most vulnerable homeless children, youth and families living in precarious situations.”

In a statement Barbara Duffield, Executive Director for SchoolHouse Connection said, “For too long, HUD has forced a national priority for chronically homeless adults, regardless of local community needs. The result has been fewer services for, and less attention to, families and youth. By aligning HUD Homeless Assistance with child and youth serving systems, the legislation introduced today will help ensure that the homeless children and youth of today do not become the chronically homeless adults of tomorrow.”

“As a membership organization, we constantly hear from our youth service providers about the challenges their youth face in accessing the services and housing that they need,” said Darla Bardine, executive director of the National Network for Youth. “The Homeless Children and Youth Act will ensure that communities are able to provide developmentally-appropriate housing and services that youth need in a flexible way.”

“This legislation acknowledges what researchers, practitioners, and reasonable people throughout the U.S. have reported for years – HUD’s targeting of a one-size-fits-all solution simply doesn’t work,” stated Ruth White, Executive Director of the National Center on Housing and Child Welfare. “The Administration must capitalize on this bi-partisan approach to erase cumbersome regulations that constrain grass-roots efforts to end all kinds of homelessness in neighborhoods nationwide.”

In a statement Claas Ehlers, President of Family Promise said, “Our Affiliates have seen increased requests for assistance, and lengthened waitlists for housing and shelter. With a well-documented lack of affordable housing across the United States, communities would benefit from the opportunity to direct HUD resources locally, as needed.  We ask that you support this piece of legislation, which would open the door for services to this neglected population.”

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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are a priority in federal policy and budget decisions.

SchoolHouse Connection is a new national organization promoting success for children and youth experiencing homelessness, from birth through higher education. SchoolHouse Connection engages in strategic advocacy and provides technical assistance in partnership with early care and education professionals (including school district homeless liaisons and state homeless education coordinators), young people, service providers, advocates, and local communities. For more information, visit www.schoolhouseconnection.org

The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) links housing resources and knowledge to child welfare agencies in order to improve family functioning, prevent family homelessness, and reduce the need for out-of-home placement. NCHCW also brings housing resources to child welfare agencies in order to ensure that older youth in foster care have a connection to permanent family as well as a solid plan for stable housing and services to help them be successful as adults.

The National Network for Youth (NN4Y) is the nation’s leading network of homeless and runaway youth programs. The Network champions the needs of runaway, homeless, and other disconnected youth through strengthening the capacity of community-based services, facilitating resource sharing, and educating the public and policy makers. NN4Y’s members serve homeless youth across the country, working collaboratively to prevent youth homelessness and the inherent risks of living on the streets, including exploitation, human trafficking, criminal justice involvement, or death. For more information, visit www.nn4youth.org.

Family Promise was founded in 1988 on the belief that Americans are compassionate people who want to make a difference. Today, Family Promise comprises 203 Affiliates in 42 states, with more in development. Family Promise programs involve more than 180,000 volunteers and they provide comprehensive assistance to more than 50,000 family members annually. Since their founding, they have served more than 700,000 people, including tens of thousands of homeless families who found temporary homes at Affiliates nationwide.  For the fourth consecutive year, Family Promise has been awarded four stars from Charity Navigator, their highest rating, for sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.

New Housing Data Misses the Mark on Family Homelessness

For Immediate Release:

October 26, 2016

Contact:

Meg Biallas, First Focus

Barbara Duffield, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth

Ruth White, National Center for Housing and Child Welfare

Washington – Advocates for homeless children and youth say the annual estimate of homelessness in the United States released yesterday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is misleading and underestimates family and youth homelessness.

HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part II, an estimate and description of homeless Americans presented each year to Congress, reported 502,521 sheltered families with children in 2015, a 6.1 percent increase since 2007.

In contrast, public schools, as reported by the Department of Education identified 1,301,239 homeless children and youth in the 2013-2014 school year, a 100 percent increase from the 2006-2007 school year. Head Start programs also reported a significant increase in the numbers of homeless children identified by Head Start programs, from 26,200 homeless children in 2007-2008, to 50,219 in 2014-2015, and increasing by 3% between 2013-2014 and 2015-2016.

HUD’s estimates focus on shelter occupancy, which is inappropriate for families and youth because:

  • HUD measures capacity, not need: Shelters are often full, and many communities do not have shelters, or have shelters that are inappropriate for the needs families or youth. Unaccompanied youth may avoid adult shelters because of safety concerns.
  • HUD does not look in the places most homeless families and youth can be found: Homeless families and youth are less likely than single adults to stay on the streets and other outdoor locations. They are less likely to sleep in bus stations, parks, etc. because they fear referrals to child protective services. Unaccompanied youth can face victimization on the streets. Families and youth are much more likely to stay temporarily with other people, or in motels. But HUD does not consider these homeless children and youth to be homeless, and makes no effort to count them.

 

Department of Education data includes children and youth in these hidden locations, which are unstable and very often unsafe. HUD excludes these children and youth in its estimates and fails to prioritize their needs. As Congress considers policies to address family homelessness in the 115th session, it should require HUD to adopt a more accurate definition of homelessness for children and youth, and honor local communities’ local assessments of their needs.

The First Focus Campaign for Children, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, and the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare released the following statements in response to HUD’s release:

“Homeless children and youth find themselves in many situations, and all have experienced trauma,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “The report is a missed opportunity to identify all homeless children and youth in the U.S. so we can realize the true need.  Homeless children and youth can’t wait any longer to receive the support they deserve.”

“The nation’s public schools, including early childhood education programs such as Head Start, have witnessed a persistent increase in the numbers of homeless children and youth over the past decade,” said Barbara Duffield, Director of Policy and Programs for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. “To categorize these children and youth as merely ‘housing unstable,’ as does today’s report, both mischaracterizes their living situations and implies that they are less vulnerable than other homeless children and youth. Nothing could be further from the truth. The urgency of child and youth homelessness requires that HUD Homeless Assistance be redesigned to meet the unique developmental needs of children and youth.”

“The AHAR is simply a report of how many homeless people are contacted through an impressive, elaborate street outreach effort conducted once a year through the Point in Time events nationwide,” said Ruth White, executive director of National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. “The obvious discrepancy between the AHAR numbers and what any provider, public school employee, or American who regularly walks down a city street can see with their own eyes, calls into question the need for the AHAR and indeed, the purpose of the PIT counts.”

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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org .

NAEHCY is a national grassroots membership association dedicated to ensuring the school enrollment, attendance, and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by the lack of safe, permanent and adequate housing. For more information, see www.naehcy.org.

The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) links housing resources and knowledge to child welfare agencies in order to improve family functioning, prevent family homelessness, and reduce the need for out-of-home placement. NCHCW also brings housing resources to child welfare agencies in order to ensure that older youth in foster care have a connection to permanent family as well as a solid plan for stable housing and services to help them be successful as adults.

A World Without Homeless Children: A Young Activist Investigates

A world without homeless children – that’s the kind of world Kelly wants to live in.

The second grader from New York shared facts about homeless youth and interviews formerly homeless moms in a recent YouTube video. It’s part of her entry for the White House Film Festival, according to her Indiegogo page.

“[The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] does not consider doubled-up children to be homeless – which underestimates the total population,” says Kelly. In fact, HUD only factors in about five percent of the total youth homeless population.

At the video’s conclusion, the young activist offers ideas on how to ask elected officials to pass the Homeless Children and Youth Act. Tweet the video to raise awareness of youth homeless, and learn more about the issue from HelpHomelessKidsNow.org and First Focus.

 


twitter-action-badgeTweet: Second grader from New York investigates youth homelessness: http://ctt.ec/2r6GS+ #HCYA


Housing Department’s Homeless Family Data Misleading, Advocates Say

For Immediate Release: November 5, 2015

Contacts:        
Madeline Daniels, First Focus Campaign for Children, 202-657-0664
Barbara Duffield, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, 202-549-7668
Ruth White, National Center for Housing & Child Welfare, 301-699-0151

Washington – Advocates for homeless children and youth say the annual estimate of homelessness in the United States released today by the Department of Housing and Urban Development is misleading and underestimates family and youth homelessness.

HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part II, an estimate and description of homeless Americans presented each year to Congress, reported 517,416 sheltered families with children (including both children and adults) in 2014, a 9.3 percent increase from 2007.

In contrast, the Department of Education identified 1,360,747 homeless children and youth in the 2013-2014 school year, a 100.2 percent increase from the 2006-2007 school year.

HUD’s estimates focus on shelter occupancy, which is inappropriate for families and youth because:

HUD measures capacity, not need: Shelters are often full, and many communities do not have shelters, or have shelters that are appropriate for the needs families or youth. Unaccompanied youth may avoid adult shelters because of safety concerns.
HUD does not look in the places most homeless families and youth can be found: Homeless families and youth are less likely than single adults to stay on the streets and other outdoor locations. They are less likely to sleep in bus stations, parks, etc. because they fear referrals to child protective services. Unaccompanied youth can face victimization on the streets. Families and youth are much more likely to stay temporarily with other people, or in motels. But HUD does not consider these homeless children and youth to be homeless, and makes no effort to count them.
Department of Education data includes children and youth in these hidden locations, which are unstable and very often unsafe. HUD excludes these children and youth in its estimates and fails to prioritize their needs. But Congress is considering a bipartisan bill, the Homeless Children and Youth Act (S. 256, H.R. 576), requiring HUD to adopt a more accurate definition of homelessness and make homeless children and youth eligible for the same assistance available to homeless adults.

The First Focus Campaign for Children, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, and the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare released the following statements in response to HUD’s release:

“Homeless children count, but the housing department does not count all homeless children in its annual estimates, “said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. The report is a missed opportunity to identify and prioritize our homeless children. Americans deserve better, especially when it comes to fighting family homelessness. This is a desperate situation, and the first step we must take is to pass the Homeless Children and Youth Act.”

“The nation’s public schools have witnessed a persistent increase in the numbers of homeless children and youth over the past decade,” said Barbara Duffield, Director of Policy and Programs for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. “To categorize these children and youth as merely ‘housing insecure,’ as does today’s report, both mischaracterizes their living situations and implies that they are less vulnerable than other homeless children and youth. Nothing could be further from the truth. The urgency of child and youth homelessness requires an alignment of federal definitions of homelessness.”

“The AHAR is simply a report of how many homeless people are contacted through an impressive, elaborate street outreach effort conducted once a year through the Point in Time events nationwide,” said Ruth White, executive director of National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. “The obvious discrepancy between the AHAR numbers and what any provider, public school employee, or American who regularly walks down a city street can see with their own eyes, calls into question the need for the AHAR and indeed, the purpose of the PIT counts.”

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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org.

NAEHCY is a national grassroots membership association dedicated to ensuring the school enrollment, attendance, and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by the lack of safe, permanent and adequate housing. For more information, see www.naehcy.org.

The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) links housing resources and knowledge to child welfare agencies in order to improve family functioning, prevent family homelessness, and reduce the need for out-of-home placement. NCHCW also brings housing resources to child welfare agencies in order to ensure that older youth in foster care have a connection to permanent family as well as a solid plan for stable housing and services to help them be successful as adults.

Record Number of Homeless Students in U.S. Schools; Leading Homeless Children’s Advocates Comment

For Immediate Release: September 22, 2014

Washington – Public schools in the United States enroll a record number of homeless children and youth, according to U.S. Department of Education (ED) data released today.

The 1,258,182 homeless students enrolled by U.S. preschools and K-12 schools in the 2012-2013 school year is an increase of 8 percent from the previous school year. 34 states and the District of Columbia reported year-to-year increases in the number of homeless students. The number of homeless children in public schools has increased 85 percent since the beginning of the recession.

81 percent of the children included in the ED data are not recognized as homeless by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which prioritizes homeless single adults, because they are living temporarily in motels or doubled-up housing. As a result, 1,006,899 homeless children are eligible for educational assistance through local schools, but not HUD services including shelter, short-term housing, and assistance with obtaining permanent housing. The bipartisanHomeless Children and Youth Act introduced in both chambers of Congress would amend the HUD definition of homelessness to include the homeless children identified in ED’s report.

Homeless children face education, health, and safety consequences from their lack of permanent housing:

This year, for the first time, ED required all school districts to report whether homeless students were living with their parents, or on their own (unaccompanied homeless youth). School districts reported enrolling 75,940 unaccompanied homeless youth. Studies have found that:

  • 40-60 percent of unaccompanied homeless youth were abused physically in their homes, 20-40 percent were abused sexually.
  • Over two-thirds of unaccompanied homeless youth report that at least one of their parents abuses drugs or alcohol.
  • Unaccompanied homeless youth are more likely to fall victim to sexual exploitation, including trafficking.

The ED data underestimate the number of homeless children in the United States. The data do not include homeless infants and toddlers, young children who are not enrolled in public preschool programs, and homeless children and youth who were not identified by school officials.

In response to the ED data, leading advocates for homeless children released the following statements:

“A record number of homeless students means a record number of our children being exposed to sexual trafficking, abuse, hunger, and denial of their basic needs,” said Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children. “The new data means that a record number of kids in our schools and communities are spending restless nights in bed-bug infested motels and falling more behind in school by the day because they’re too tired and hungry to concentrate. This is a desperate situation, and the first step we must take is to get homeless students the housing assistance they need today by passing the Homeless Children and Youth Act.”

“The data released today confirm what our members see every day – increasing numbers of children and youth struggling to survive without a home,” said Barbara Duffield, Director of Policy and Programs for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth. “Public schools are the only universal safety net for these children and youth — a place where they can obtain basic services and the education that is necessary to escape poverty as adults. Yet without access to HUD homeless assistance, schools struggle to stabilize the education and the lives of homeless children and youth. The Homeless Children and Youth Act would eliminate the red tape that prevents local agencies from collaborating to create better futures for these vulnerable students.”

“It is shocking and sobering that in a country this wealthy we have so many students who lack a place to live,” said Jeremy Rosen, Director of Advocacy at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “Unfortunately, current federal homelessness policy makes it harder for children, youth, and families to leave homelessness. Congress should pass the Homeless Children and Youth Act so that we can see these numbers begin to decline.”

“Clearly, the federal government has abandoned its commitment to fill yawning gaps in affordable housing options for low income families – and left America’s public schools to deal with the consequences,” said Ruth White,  Executive Director, National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. “These alarming trends could be easily reversed by prudent investments in federal housing programs that help these struggling families make ends meet.”

“With 75,940 unaccompanied homeless youth counted in public schools  and less than 7,000 beds for this population, it is clear that we have a long way to go to providing this very vulnerable homeless youth population with the care and resources they need,” said Darla Bardine, Executive Director, National Network for Youth.

The data released by the U.S. Department of Education are available on the website of the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE). NCHE is the U.S. Department of Education’s technical assistance and information provider in the area of homeless education.

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The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org.

NAEHCY is a national grassroots membership association dedicated to ensuring the school enrollment, attendance, and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by the lack of safe, permanent and adequate housing. For more information, see www.naehcy.org.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) is a 501(c) 3 organization based in Washington, D.C. and founded in 1989 as the legal arm of the national movement to end and prevent homelessness. Through policy advocacy, public education, and impact litigation, NLCHP addresses the root causes of homelessness and seeks to meet both the immediate and long-term needs of homeless and poor people. Through training and support, NLCHP also enhances the capacity of local groups.

The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) links housing resources and knowledge to child welfare agencies in order to improve family functioning, prevent family homelessness, and reduce the need for out-of-home placement. NCHCW also brings housing resources to child welfare agencies in order to ensure that older youth in foster care have a connection to permanent family as well as a solid plan for stable housing and services to help them be successful as adults.

The National Network for Youth (NN4Y), founded in 1974, is the nation’s leading network of homeless and runaway youth programs. The Network champions the needs of runaway, homeless, and other disconnected youth through strengthening the capacity of community-based services, facilitating resource sharing, and educating the public and policy makers. NN4Y members work collaboratively to prevent youth homelessness and the inherent risks of living on the streets, including exploitation, human trafficking, criminal justice involvement, or getting killed on the streets. For more information, visit www.nn44youth.org.


Take Action

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Listen to Youth

There is no better way to understand homelessness than listening to the children and youth who have been through it. Listen to what they have to say.

Get the Facts

The Homeless Children and Youth Act is bi-partisan legislation that would make it easier for local communities to help homeless children, youth, and families. Get the facts.

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About the photos: Photos of children and youth experiencing homelessness provided by Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc., used with permission. (c) 2012, Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc.