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Alliance Raises Awareness of Homeless Children and Youth Act

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March 14, 2012 02:27 pm

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“To really understand what it’s like to be homeless, take a bath twice a week in a sink, says Naomi* in the video below. “Carry your clothes or everything that you own in a Kroger’s bag.”

Can you imagine having to bathe yourself with just a sink and your hands? Having to sleep on hard floors, in cramped motels, or not at all? Being kicked out of a hotel room because the money is gone and the bills are overdue? This is the life of thousands of children across the country. They are homeless. But not according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Despite not having a safe and stable place of residence, thousands of children across the country are not eligible for homeless services funded by HUD because HUD does not consider children to be homeless if they have lost their home but are staying in a motel or temporarily with others for more than 14 days. If a homeless student has a place to stay for more than 14 days, he or she would have to meet each of the following criteria in order to be considered homeless by HUD:

  • is homeless for at least 60 days and
  • moved at least twice during this 60 day period and
  • is likely to remain homeless because of substance abuse, chronic mental health condition, or at least two barriers to employment.

As a result, homeless children who stay in hotels or with others are often not eligible for shelter and support services. However, these children do get help staying in school because that assistance is provided by the Department of Education.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, along with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, American Bar Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals the National Center on Family Homelessness, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, the First Focus Campaign for Children, and others are bringing awareness to the issue of childhood homelessness through the “Help Homeless Kids Now!” campaign. Together, these organizations are working to pass the Homeless Children and Youth Act, or H.R. 32. The legislation is a bipartisan effort to cut through federal red tape and make it easier for homeless children, youth, and families to receive homeless assistance, no matter where they stay temporarily.

H.R. 32 would amend HUD’s definition of homelessness to be more consistent with the U.S. Department of Education’s definition. Specifically, H.R. 32 would allow children, youth, and families who are verified as homeless under four federal programs to be considered homeless by HUD. For example, in contrast to HUD’s narrow definition of homelessness that is limited to people on the streets or in shelters, the U.S. Department of Education uses a definition of homelessness that includes families, children, and youth who have lost their housing and are staying in temporary or unstable situations. By allowing students verified as homeless by public schools to be considered homeless by HUD, many more homeless children will be able to access the services they need to succeed.

In the video above, Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education President and former governor of West Virginia, introduces Naomi, Tim, Rachel and Adem. These four young people describe how they came to be homeless and explain the obstacles they faced while trying to get an education.

“We stayed in hotels a lot; it was like a second home to us.” says Tim. “We stayed there sometimes months at a time living there and when we couldn’t pay the bills anymore for that hotel, we’d try to move to another one.”

Rachel, Adem, Tim, and Naomi, all of whom became homeless in their early teens, were not eligible for HUD benefits because they could temporarily stay in motels, or with others. The “Help Homeless Kids Now!” campaign seeks to advocate for these students who need help with the basic necessities many Americans take for granted.

“You don’t have to be very old to understand that that’s not how it’s supposed to be, not knowing where you’re going to sleep the next day, not knowing what you’re going to eat for dinner.” says Adem.

Although the U.S. Department of Education would consider these students to be homeless and provide them with assistance staying in and attending school, their inability to qualify for federal social services through HUD puts their education at risk.

By bringing HUD’s homeless definition of homeless in line with the U.S. Department of Education’s and other federal agencies, H.R. 32 has the potential to qualify as many as 762,000 additional children for aid benefits.

“America can do better for its most vulnerable young people,” Governor Wise asserts.

To learn more about the “Help Homeless Kids Now!” campaign and the Homeless Children and Youth Act, H.R. 32, visit www.helphomelesskidsnow.org.

*- last names witheld for privacy

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