Published On: August 17, 20233.1 min read629 words

On August 15, 2023, the Homeless Children and Youth Act (H.R. 5221) was reintroduced by U.S. Representatives Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ-11), Bill Posey (R-FL-08), Delia Ramirez (D-IL-03), and Don Bacon (R-NE-02).

Most children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness are shut out of homeless assistance because they do not meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) restrictive definition of homelessness. 

Shelters and transitional housing are often full, unable to serve families as a unit, do not accept unaccompanied minor youth, or simply do not exist in too many communities. When families and youth are not able to access shelter, they are much less likely to be eligible for HUD homeless assistance programs.

Unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness fear interactions with authorities and exploitation from older adults, whether in a shelter, on the street, or staying on someone’s couch. Families experiencing homelessness are also less likely than single adults to stay on the streets and other outdoor locations, often because they are afraid their children will be removed from their custody. 

For these reasons, youth and families are much more likely to stay temporarily with other people, or in motels — situations that are themselves very unstable, often unsafe, and put them at risk of great harm, including trafficking. They often move between situations and may not know where they will sleep from one night to the next. 

While these youth and families are considered homeless by some federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, they are not considered homeless by HUD. As a result, they are not eligible to be assessed for and receive HUD homeless assistance. Yet the children and youth who are excluded from HUDs definition of homelessness are extremely vulnerable, and are at great risk of continuing to experience homelessness as adults.

The Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA) fixes this problem by aligning federal definitions of homelessness for children and youth, streamlining assistance, leveraging resources, and bringing greater visibility to the reality of family and youth homelessness.

Take Action Now!

Action #1: Urge Your U.S. Representative to Sign On as a Co-Sponsor of H.R. 5221

Arrange to meet virtually or in person with your U.S. Representative or their staff to educate them about the harms of hidden homelessness and urge them to sign on to HCYA. Invite your community partners to join you! You can find contact information for your U.S. Representative here. If you’d like assistance setting up meetings with your elected officials, please email NN4Y Policy Associate Heather Lavoie at .

If you don’t have time to meet, use this editable action form to send a personalized letter to your U.S. Representative urging them to cosponsor the Homeless Children and Youth Act.

Action #2: Sign Your Organization on as an Endorser of HCYA

Use this form to add your organization’s name to the list of organizational endorsers. Please share widely with your community partners!

Action #3: Share on Social Media

Use this action form ➡️ ⬅️ to send a personalized letter to your U.S. Representative urging them to cosponsor the #Homeless Children and Youth Act. @nn4youth #EndYouthHomelessness

The Homeless Children & Youth Act aligns federal definitions of #homelessness for children & youth, streamlines assistance, leverages resources, and brings greater visibility to the reality of family & youth homelessness. @nn4youth #EndYouthHomelessness.
Endorse this bill:

And more on this social media toolkit!


More information about HCYA

Homeless Children and Youth Fact Sheet

Hidden Homelessness in the U.S.: Why Congress Must Change HUD’s Definition of Homelessness to Align With Other Federal Agencies

The Pitfalls of HUD’s Point-in-Time Count for Children, Youth, and Families