Rep. Rubén Hinojosa is a tireless champion for runaway and homeless youth. His work sponsoring the Place to Call Home Act and caring for the needs of youth nationwide bestowed upon his the “Champions of Youth” Award at the 2008 NN4Y Symposium. Rep. Hinojosa was touched by the honor, and we were touched by his acceptance of it with his presence and kind remarks. We have included the full text of his speech here.

(Rep. Hinojosa, January 29, 2008)

Good Evening. I am honored and humbled to receive this award from the National Network for Youth. To me, you are the champions. You stand up for disconnected, unaccompanied and homeless youth everyday. You do not allow children to slip through the cracks.

The National Network for Youth is a vocal and effective advocate for homeless youth. That does not happen by accident. It takes leadership. I would like to commend your CEO Victoria Wagner and your DC team of Bob Reeg and Mishaela Duran for their tireless work to advance the Network’s goals.

I would like to congratulate Bob Edward of XM Radio and Virgin Atlantic for being recognized as champions for homeless youth. Tackling youth homelessness takes champions from all sectors. It is a privilege to share this evening with them.

It is with some sorrow that I join you tonight. We recently lost a tremendous champion in our quest to end homelessness. We will dearly miss Congresswoman Julia Carson from Indiana, and tonight we should pledge to continue her legacy.

I applaud your work on behalf of our most vulnerable children and adults. In the United States, a nation of great wealth, of great resources, and great capacity, everyone should have a place to call home. Yet today, more and more families are confronting the very real possibility of losing their homes and becoming homeless. Your work is more important now than ever.

I am pleased to be working with the National Network for Youth to put the Place to Call Home campaign on our legislative agenda.

For the past year, we have been working to craft the Place to Call Home Act. The legislation is designed to prevent and end runaway and homeless situations among our nation’s youth. It is ambitious in scope – because the causes of and solutions to youth homelessness are complex.

We need a comprehensive approach – one that identifies all of our agencies and congressional committees that can help mend the social safety net that is torn for homeless youth. Our bill will improve programs and remove barriers to services for homeless and other disconnected youth in permanent housing, in healthcare, in secondary education, higher education, job training, juvenile justice, and child welfare.

I am happy to report that our support is growing. We have 26 cosponsors for this legislation in the House and 3 in the Senate. Remember these bill numbers – H.R. 3409 and S. 2111. I hope that you will take some time while you are here in Washington to convince more members of Congress and Senators to cosponsor these bills.

We are moving this bill into law piece by piece. In the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, we fixed the financial aid form for homeless youth. In the bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act – the College Opportunity and Affordability Act — we are working to ensure that our TRIO and GEAR UP programs are responsive to the needs of disconnected youth and have included a new authority for campuses to design supportive services—including housing to keep disconnected youth on campus and on track for graduation.

Later this year, we may consider the reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act – another key piece of the Place to Call Home Act. Congresswoman Berkeley on the Ways and Means Committee is championing the pieces of the Place to Call Home Act that fall under her committee’s jurisdiction.

We are truly on the move but need your help. Your energy and advocacy can create the will to get the job done. You can show policy makers — at the local, state and federal levels—that we can end youth homelessness. We know what is needed. We know what works.

We just have to muster the will and the resources and maintain our focus.

Thank you this prestigious award. It will serve to remind me of our shared goal to ensure that every young person in America has a Place to Call Home.

DATE

January 29, 2008

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