Published On: July 23, 20194.9 min read973 words

U.S. House Hearing on Strengthening Federal Support to End Youth Homelessness

“There are so many of us who need these programs, but don’t have access to one because the federal investment is so small compared to the need. Please know that every dollar you invest, tells a young person like me, that they are not defined by their family or life circumstances. You tell a young person that their potential and dreams matter and should be given a chance to flourish. When you invest in us, our entire society benefits.” (David Baker, NN4Y Young Leader & Support Specialist, YMCA San Diego).

4.2 million young people experience homelessness each year in America. Many won’t have the same stories to share of opportunities to reach their potential and hope to achieve their dreams like David unless investments are made now. Listen to David’s opening testimony:

On July 16, 2019, the U.S. House and Educational Labor Committee (Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services) held a congressional hearing on Strengthening Federal Support to End Youth Homelessness. This hearing examined the root causes, immediate and long-term impacts, systemic barriers to housing and services, and solutions to youth and young adult homelessness in America. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle agreed on the need to strengthen the federal prevention and crisis response to youth homelessness and listened to the compelling testimonies of four expert witnesses including Mr. David Baker (NN4Y Young Leader and YMCA Support Specialist), Dr. Matthew Morton (Research Fellow, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago), Dr. Melinda Giovengo (Board Chair, NN4Y and CEO, YouthCare), and Mr. Robert Lowery (Vice-President, Missing Children Division, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children).

Chairwoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services opened the hearing by highlights the risky and vulnerable situations that  many youth and young adults experiencing homelessness face. To listen to Rep. Bonamici’s opening remarks:

What the Research Says

Dr. Morton shed light on what the research has shown about the too often invisible population of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness throughout urban, rural and tribal native communities. According to Dr. Morton, “Our study underscores that, just because youth homelessness might be less visible in rural communities and small towns, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Hear more from Dr. Morton:

Certain Youth Populations are Disproportionately Impacted

Youth of color, LGBTQ youthparenting youth, youth without a high school diploma or GED, and systems involved youth have been found to be disproportionately impacted by homelessness:

HUD Definition of Homelessness is a Barrier for Youth, Families and Children

Many young parents face challenges in caring for themselves and their small children when faced with housing instability. Dr. Giovengo illustrates the barriers in place as young parents try to sustain housing and stability for themselves and their children but are deemed ineligible under stringent HUD definitions. In her testimony, Dr. Giovengo describes the experience of a young parent who, “lived in her car on Monday, and on Tuesday stayed with a friend, and on Thursday was back in her car and had a housing assessment through the HUD definition and wasn’t eligible because she had stayed with her mom one night”. Learn more about how young families are being denied safe and supportive services and how systems should be working together:

Youth Experiencing Homelessness Experience High Rates of Human Trafficking

Runaway and homeless youth also face increased risks of human trafficking and sexual exploitation at a rate ranging between 19%-40%. Listen to Chairwoman Bonamici and Dr. Giovengo discuss these alarming statistics and how cities such as Seattle are working to combat the trafficking and sexual exploitation of runaway and homeless youth.

Congressional leadership also emphasized the need to consider the root causes that contribute to and perpetuate youth homelessness. House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott stated, “If you find the homeless and you provide emergency services you still need to do something to deal with the underlying problem. What should we be doing?”

Equitable Access to Education

In response to the underlying issues associated with homelessness and the need for critical life changing supports such as wraparound services, Mr. Baker and Dr. Giovengo both stressed the value of tangible solutions such as increased investments in the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act as well as and strengthing education supports to young people experiencing homelessness.. Both witnesses testified about the challenges that young adults and students face while trying to establish their independence towards successful adulthood and the need for supports and services through dignity. Listen as Mr. Baker highlights the value of equitable access for students experiencing homelessness and how the Higher Education Access & Success for Homeless & Foster Youth Act (S. 789/H.R. 1724) can streamline how students can access resources such as assistance with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), housing, and a designated higher education liaison.

$30 Per Homeless Youth is Not Enough 

Ending youth homeless requires a holistic approach and an increase in investments in our young people. According to Dr. Giovengo, “Youth homelessness is way more than just a house and a roof over a young person’s head. And we must address the issue from a 360 perspective. We will not end youth homelessness unless we are partnering with the education and employment systems to get these young people back on a traditional pathway so that they can become self sufficient.” For more on why increased investments in the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act matter now more than ever:

Runaway and Homeless Youth Act Needs Comprehensive Reauthorization

The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act is in need of a comprehensive reauthorization as the last full programmatic reauthorization took place in 2008. Learn more about how you can take action and advocate.