October 30, 2008, Washington, DC. The National Network for Youth, the nation’s leading advocacy and service organization for runaway and homeless youth, is celebrating a major victory in fulfilling its members’ missions to help more than a million youth each year overcome homelessness and related problems. On September 25 and 26 the Senate and House respectively passed S. 2982, the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act of 2008. The President signed the legislation on October 8.
The act renews and significantly strengthens provisions of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. The Act authorizes funding assistance for street outreach, shelters, and transitional living facilities for homeless youth in hundreds of communities and provides the national framework for those efforts. These services help to save the lives and futures of these young people, and they help to avert problems that would otherwise cost millions in taxpayer dollars.
The National Network for Youth represents more than 200 of the 400 organizations that provide these services for youth. The Network was the leading national advocate for the reauthorization. As part of celebrating the success of the reauthorization effort and the continuation of national help to these youth in need, the Network is recognizing three national legislators who helped ensure its passage.
Honorees include Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Reps. Judith Biggert (R-IL) and John Yarmuth (D-KY). Senator Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, took the lead in moving the key legislative package through the Senate and ensuring an affirmative vote to continue the key programs. Reps. Biggert and Yarmuth provided leadership in the House of Representatives to ensure that the legislation moved efficiently through the Committee and the full House with substantial support from that body.
Senator Leahy will be honored National Network’s annual symposium in Washington, DC in late January 2009. Rep. Biggert will be honored later this fall at a National Network event in suburban Chicago area, attended by national representatives and Chicago area Network organizations.
Rep. John Yarmuth was honored in Louisville, KY, at a National Network for Youth Celebration event on Thursday, October 30, at 10:00 a.m. at the YMCA Safe Place Services.
Board members, staff, and youth from area Network member organizations attended the celebration. Sandy Bowen, Executive Director of National Safe Place and a member of the Network’s national board, joined Terry Modglin, Public Policy Director for the Network, in presenting an award to Rep. Yarmuth. They were joined by those providing shelter services for runaway and homeless youth in the Louisville area, including the local Volunteers of America programs and YMCA Safe Place Services.
Rep. Yarmuth authored the reauthorization and introduced it with 27 cosponsors. He then shepherded the bill through a complicated legislative process to win its enactment. The reauthorization renews federal support for the hundreds of programs across the US that serve America’s most vulnerable youth through basic center shelters that provide refuge from victimization and complementary supportive services, street outreach that helps to ensure youths’ safety and survival, and transitional living programs that help young people move toward productive adulthoods. The great majority of the youth served by these programs are victims of physical and/or sexual abuse; many have been thrown or pushed out of their homes.
Ms. Bowen noted Rep. Yarmuth’s “abiding commitment and effective legislative leadership” in ensuring continuation of these life-saving programs. She added, “John Yarmuth has demonstrated unusual skill as a first-term Congressman in moving this vital legislation through a complex and challenging legislative session. We are proud of his work.”
Victoria Wagner, Chief Executive Officer of the National Network for Youth, also praised Rep. Yarmuth’s achievement: “John Yarmuth is an extraordinary advocate for these abandoned young people. His work in crafting this reauthorization not only makes these programs available for five more years but provides a desperately needed base for an increase in funding to 400 organizations across the nation. What is more, it makes the entire system fairer and more efficient. We are also grateful for his leadership in related legislation that provides protections, options, and opportunities for these youth.”
The Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act of 2008 authorized the Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs for the next five years. The Act increased the authorized amounts available for such programs and placed a significant amount of emphasis on implementing the positive youth development approach to its programming. Runaway and homeless youth programs have hailed the Act’s reauthorization as a significant legislative victory.
The National Network for Youth has been serving the youth of America for more than 30 years by championing the needs of runaway, homeless and other disconnected youth. It does this through advocacy, innovation and services provided by its more than 200 national and local member organizations in every state, creating neighborhoods of support for the next generation.
National Safe Place is a network of more than 17,000 public and business locations around the nation that link young people in crisis with local youth service agencies. By offering safe haven and links to help, Safe Place programs extend the reach of youth shelters.