Why Now

The Homeless Children and Youth Act has broad support among local service providers and educators – here’s why.

Erica Kisch, LCSW, Executive Director, Compass Family Services, San Francisco, CA

“When a single mother of one came to our our front door, she was desperate for help and had finally worked up the courage to ask for it. The mother had fallen on hard times and reported that she was staying with two other families in a one-bedroom apartment…What made the situation even worse was that a man from one of the other families was physically abusing her young boy. At times she would stay temporarily in a motel, but her money would only offer her son a few days of protection, and then she would have to return with her son to a nightmarish environment. Because of HUD’s rules, her family was not eligible to get on San Francisco’s waiting list for shelter, not eligible for our transitional housing program, and not eligible for our only open subsidy problem. An amendment to the definition of homelessness would lift the handcuffs off our agency and allow us to serve others like this vulnerable mother and son.” Read more.

Deb Loon, Executive Director, Avenues for Homeless Youth, Minneapolis, MN

“HUD’s definition of homelessness excludes many youth from HUD-funded housing programs and from homelessness counts. For example, it does not include youth who are unstably couch-hopping from house-to-house. This is the majority of homeless youth. While they may have a place to sleep at night, they are not stable and they are not necessarily safe. And they are not getting the supportive services they need to become stable, stay in school and plan for their futures. There is a terrible shortage of youth-specific shelter beds, both in Minnesota and across the country. This means youth need to spend time in adult shelters to qualify for HUD-supported housing. Adult shelters are inappropriate and often unsafe for young people. Youth will choose many other options over crowded, frightening adult shelters, including options that are not safe for them. ” Read more.

Martha Ryan, Founder & Executive Director, Homeless Prenatal Program, San Francisco, CA

“Poverty is an accident of birth. Babies do not get to choose the families they are born into. Children born into poor and homeless families have far fewer opportunities in life than children born into families with sufficient financial means. Without options for safe, affordable housing with wrap around services – like those offered through HUD – it will be too difficult for children to overcome the many injustices and traumatic experiences they have encountered in their short lives. These children are at far greater risk of growing up to be homeless as adults.” Read more.

Paul Curtis, Executive Director, California Coalition for Youth, Sacramento, CA –
“CCY operates the California Youth Crisis Line, a statewide, toll-free, 24-hour, confidential hotline available to teens and young adults ages 12-24 and/or any adults supporting youth. We help callers find homeless youth shelters, youth-serving medical clinics, on-going counseling services, and much more throughout California. Through our Crisis Line, we get calls from youth around the state who do not have access to services because they do not meet the HUD definition. Many of our member organizations also experience this with the families and youth they serve.”

Mattie Lord, Chief Program Officer, UMOM New Day Centers, Phoenix, AZ

“…At our initial meeting with families, prior to admitting them to shelter, we conduct an interview regarding barriers to housing in the community. A ‘low barrier’ family might be a single mother with 2 children who owes utility company money, a situation fairly easy to resolve. A ‘high barrier’ family might be a single mother under the age of 25 with 5 children, no high school diploma or GED, no employment experience, no income, and a history of mental illness. Certainly both families have needs, but which children need HUD’s resources most? What if the low barrier family resides in shelter and the high barrier family lives ‘doubled up’ in a 2 bedroom apartment with a host family? Does that change your opinion? As the law stands, the low barrier family is eligible for HUD homeless services, but the high barrier family is not. The Homeless Children and Youth Act empowers the community to decide who to serve based on need and available resources.” Read more.

Joe Willard, People’s Emergency Center, Philadelphia, PA -
“PEC receives 10 calls a day from a family looking for emergency housing. We have to turn them away. The City of Philadelphia gets calls every day from families and has to turn them away. Why? There is not enough housing or resources because legislators do not understand the true size and scope of homelessness. Read more.

Melissa Chapman, School District Homeless Liaison, Amarillo Independent School District, TX –
“As a Homeless Liaison at Amarillo ISD, I continue to work with a growing number of families living in motels or doubled up because of various reasons who are excluded from assistance with programs because they do not qualify as “Homeless” under HUD’s definition…Unfortunately, I see too many parents become frustrated with the system and give up. They feel like failures and return to drugs or other unhealthy coping mechanisms because it is just too difficult to receive the assistance they need.” Read more.

Kim Snell, ATLAS Liaison, Rutherford County Schools, TN –
“Today I learned of another situation. A family with 5 little girls in elementary and middle school… The youngest girl said, ‘We were making too much noise every day. We were just playing, but they didn’t like us.’ So they were told to leave. Mom is living in her van so she can get to work, and all 5 girls have gone to stay with their aunt in a town about 50 miles away in a different county…Mom hopes to get them all into a motel room soon. Her credit is bad, so she doesn’t think she will be able to get into any kind of stable housing.” Read more.

Heather Lawhead, Homeless Liaison, Aberdeen School District, Aberdeen, WA –

“It is my experience that families who are seeking shelter in long term stay motels are as ‘homeless’ as individuals who are staying in shelters…Motel rooms have neither kitchen facilities nor laundry facilities. Lack of ability to store and prepare foods causes increased spending on ready-made foods. Inability to do laundry increases household spending. Shelters have such facilities, but local shelter would have split the family up by gender. Tough choice.” Read more.

Vicki Garland, School District Homeless Liaison, Josiah Bartlett School, NH – “I am the homeless liaison for a K-8 school of under 300 students in northern, rural, New Hampshire. At Christmas time we has six children living in motels. One family with four children started in our district in September. They were camping in the woods behind our school. Once it got cold they began moving from one motel to another. They applied for all sorts of social services, but were denied due to lack of documentation, including birth certificates.” Read more.

Take Action

Tell your U.S. Representative and U.S Senators that all homeless children and youth need help,­ no matter where they happen to be staying. Take action here.

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 would make it easier for homeless children, youth, and families to receive homeless assistance, no matter where they happen to be staying. Get the facts.

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HCYA Supporters

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.