The bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017 was introduced on March 14, 2017 by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and Rob Portman (D-Ohio) and Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa). On Tuesday, the bill came before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance. The bill amends existing law in response to rising instances of child and youth homelessness.  

According to First Focus Campaign for Children, an estimated 1.2 million children under age six experience homelessness over the course of a year. Public schools identified 1.3 million homeless children and youth, pre-K through 12th grade, in the 2015-2016 school year, which is a 34 percent increase since the end of the recession in the summer of 2009. In addition, 4.2 million youth and young adults age 13-25 experience homelessness on their own over the course of a year.  

This legislation addresses a key barrier to services for many communities by restoring local decision making and allowing communities flexibility with how to use available resources to meet their most urgent needs, especially those of children, youth, and families. Currently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s narrow definition of homelessness leaves out many of our country’s most vulnerable children and youth, thereby restricting communities’ ability to effectively address youth and family homelessness. This tip sheet from Help Homeless Kids Now further explains how local communities will be able to determine eligibility and the specific services to meet the unique needs of each homeless population, should this legislation pass and become law.  

The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities will be monitoring legislation. On June 6, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on the legislation. You can watch the hearing and read witness testimony online. For more information, contact Jennifer Ralston Herrera, associate director of public policy at the Alliance.

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