Portman, Feinstein, Stivers, Loebsack Introduce Bill to Help Homeless Children and Youth
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today introduced the Homeless Children and Youth Act to amend the definition of homelessness used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) so that more American children who are vulnerable can receive services they need. Representatives Steve Stivers (R-OH) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
The amended definition would simply align the HUD definition of homelessness, which is used to verify eligibility for homeless assistance programs, with the definition used to verify eligibility for other federal assistance programs like the National School Lunch Program.
Taking this step would reduce widespread confusion about eligibility for federal homeless programs and increase access to them. Specifically, children living in motels and doubled-up in households with acquaintances would finally be recognized as homeless by HUD.
“Persistent poverty robs children of the security and stability they deserve,” said Senator Portman. “Our common-sense reforms will open up access to federal assistance programs for thousands of homeless children and youth. Washington has to ensure that it is playing the right role in helping these vulnerable children, and this bill is a step in the right direction.”
“The harmful effects of homelessness on children’s educational and emotional development are clear. Ensuring children have a permanent roof over their heads will have a long-term benefit on their lives and our country’s future,” said Senator Feinstein. “Current federal policy creates significant barriers that prevent our most vulnerable children and families from accessing housing assistance and the support services they need to escape homelessness. Our bill would fix that.”
“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,” said Congressman Stivers. “This bill will be a first step in identifying the scope of the youth homelessness issue so we can help some of the most vulnerable in our communities.”
“As someone who was raised in poverty by a single mother who struggled with mental illness, I have seen firsthand how community supports can make a difference in people’s lives. I am also sadly aware that some children may slip through the cracks and we cannot allow that to happen,” said Congressman Loebsack. “In order for our children to excel, especially those who are homeless or have nowhere to go, we must make it easier on them to access homeless assistance programs. The Homeless Children and Youth Act will help communities best provide for those who are most in need.”
In its 2015 nationwide survey, HUD counted 206,286 people in families with children that experienced homelessness. However, data from the Department of Education indicated that during the 2014-2015 school year there were approximately 1.2 million homeless students nationwide.
27,939 children experienced homelessness in Ohio during the 2014-2015 school year. This is an increase of 17.5% increase over the past three years.
The Homeless Children and Youth Act would ensure local nonprofits have flexibility to use federal funds to meet their communities’ needs. For example, some communities have much higher rates of family homelessness than chronic homelessness among individuals. The bill would also require local governments and nonprofits that receive HUD funding to connect homeless children and families to education, child care, mental health and employment services.
NOTE: Senator Portman delivered remarks at the National Network for Youth 2017 National Summit on Youth Homelessness earlier today. You can watch his speech here.