FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, DC – On July 23, 2014, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) (42 U.S.C. 5701 et seq.). The National Network for Youth has been leading the reauthorization of RHYA with its partners and convened a group of 35 experts who collaborated and developed recommendations for critical updates to the legislation.
The bill updates the language used around human trafficking to be consistent with definitions in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7102) and includes provisions for collecting data on victims of human trafficking. The bill also adds a nondiscrimination clause that brings the Act into accordance with the federal regulations that most runaway and homeless youth programs currently follow.
In addition, the reauthorization updates the provisions for all three of the major programs that award grants to community providers: Basic Center Programs, Transitional Living Programs (including Maternity Group Homes), and Street Outreach Programs. The national support activities and rural demonstration grants have remained an important part of how this legislation cares for homeless youth.
The allowable length of stay for Basic Center Programs has been increased from 21 days to 30 days, which will give young people and their families more time to access reunification services when needed. The legislation also extends family intervention and reunification services to Transitional Living Programs when it is safe and appropriate for the youth. Family intervention, counseling and reunification will include all individuals that a youth considers to be family, which will likely have a significant impact on youth who identify as LGBTQ.
The legislation maintains the current authorized funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, but designates an additional two million dollars for the National Study of the Prevalence Needs and Characteristics of Homeless Youth in America. This study will collect much needed data about the runaway and homeless youth population in the United States and will enable prevention and crisis intervention services to be scaled according to the needs of the population.
The National Network for Youth applauds Senators Collins and Leahy for their bipartisan leadership on the reauthorization of this important piece of legislation and giving voice to the vulnerable runaway and homeless youth population.
“Runaway and homeless youth programs provide life-saving services to youth all across America, and the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act makes necessary updates to improve the services that homeless youth in crisis need to stabilize, reconnect with education and thrive,” said Darla Bardine, Executive Director of the National Network for Youth.
“Supporting our youth when they are most in need, and helping to get them back on their feet benefits us all,” U.S. Senator Leahy said. “Homeless children are less likely to finish school, more likely to enter our juvenile justice system, and are ill-equipped to find a job. The services authorized by this bill are designed to intervene early and encourage the development of successful, productive young adults.”
“Despite the recent decline we have seen in chronic homelessness, there are still more than 1.6 million homeless teens in the United States,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins. “As the Ranking Member of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, I have made it my goal to address chronic homelessness. We must make sure our nation’s homeless youth have the same opportunity to succeed as other youth. The programs reauthorized by this bill are critical in helping homeless youth stay off the street and find stable, sustainable housing. I look forward to working with Senator Leahy to quickly move this bill through the Senate and House so that the President can sign it into law.”