The National Network for Youth (NN4Y) issues the following release in support of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S.262), which was introduced in the Senate today. S.262 is a stronger and more comprehensive bill than H.R.468.
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, 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.). Senator Ayotte (R-NH) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) joined this important bipartisan effort as original bill cosponsors. 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.
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced and passed on suspension of the rules, Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act of 2015 (H.R.468). H.R. 468 updates some language in the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) to mirror the definition of human trafficking as defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) (22 U.S.C. 7102) and was introduced by Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV), Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI), Congressman John Kline(R-MN), and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA). Congressman Bobby Scott gave a floor speech in support of updating this language and urged the U.S. House of Representatives to fully reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and highlighted what H.R. 468 does not do that the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act does (beginning at 4:40:00).
“While H.R. 468 is a good start, the legislation stops short of making the types of updates that are needed to really move things forward to protect our young people,” Darla Bardine, Executive Director of the National Network for Youth, “If we as a nation are going to effectively prevent human trafficking, we need all of the updates in the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act to pass through both the Senate and the House.”
The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S.262) introduced today in the Senate includes similar updates that H.R. 468 made, but also includes provisions for collecting data on victims of human trafficking, adds a nondiscrimination clause that brings the Act into accordance with the federal regulations that most runaway and homeless youth programs currently follow, and increases the allowable length of stay for Basic Center Programs from 21 to 30 days to give young people and their families more time to access reunification services when needed.
The Senate bill 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. 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.
S.262 maintains the current authorized funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs of $165 million per year and 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. Also, this legislation would add human trafficked runaway and homeless youth to this national study, providing vital nationwide information needed to more effectively prevent the trafficking of children and provide appropriate services to survivors.
The National Network for Youth applauds Senators Collins, Leahy, Ayotte, and Booker for their bipartisan leadership on the reauthorization of this important piece of legislation and giving voice to the vulnerable runaway and homeless youth who need help and services today.
“Runaway and homeless youths are the most vulnerable to exploitation by human traffickers, and they are in need of the prevention and intervention services supported by this bill. Homeless youth service providers in Vermont and across the country are uniquely situated to identify these victims and help them build a better life. The bipartisan legislation Senator Collins and I introduced today ensures that victims of trafficking will be quickly identified, and receive the appropriate services. Before another youth falls victim to homelessness, all Senators should join together and pass the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act,” said U.S. Senator Leahy.
“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 Chairman of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, one of my goals is 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.”
“No child should have to go without a home, yet right now in New Hampshire, one in every four homeless people are children. That’s a heartbreaking statistic,” Senator Ayotte said. “We need to find solutions to this pervasive problem, including strategies to address issues like human trafficking and sexual exploitation that can sometimes lead to or coexist with homelessness. By reauthorizing these critical programs, we can help families in New Hampshire and across the nation overcome homelessness and lead independent, fulfilling lives.”
“No young person should face the pain and dangers of homelessness,” Senator Booker said. “In urban, suburban, and rural communities all over the country, many of these vulnerable youth deal not only with the obvious hazards of homelessness, but also fall victim to emotional and physical exploitation. We have a responsibility and moral obligation to help them. I am grateful to my colleagues Senators Leahy and Collins for their leadership in introducing this legislation which will provide a pathway to housing and the life skills these young people need.”
“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, avoid or leave victimization, reconnect with education and go on to thrive as adults,” said Darla Bardine, Executive Director of the National Network for Youth.