Bill Would Remove Obstacles for Aid for Homeless Children

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WASHINGTON – Bipartisan legislation to eliminate obstacles that deny federal assistance to nearly one million homeless children was introduced July 24, according to The First Focus Campaign for Children, a children’s advocacy organization.

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that more than 1.1 million children in America are homeless. Children face the same problems as other homeless Americans, including hunger, health problems, and increased risk of exploitation and violence. But because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) uses a different definition of “homeless” for children, the bulk of the nation’s homeless children cannot get basic HUD-funded assistance, like supportive housing, food, and mental health services.

The Homeless Children and Youth Act, sponsored in the United States Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Mark Begich (D-Alaska), and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Steve Stivers (R-Ohio-15) and Congressman George Miller (D-Calif.-11), would eliminate the obstacle in definition and funding restrictions that effectively deny most homeless children basic assistance. The bill would empower local leaders to serve all homeless people and end current policies that deny most homeless children the same assistance available to homeless adults.

Organizations endorsing the legislation included the First Focus Campaign for Children, the National Network for Youth, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, and Covenant House. Responding to the bill’s introduction, these organizations released the following statement by First Focus Campaign for Children president, Bruce Lesley:

“HUD denies help to nearly a million homeless children who live every day with hunger, trauma, exploitation and violence. This bill offers a bipartisan plan to level the playing field, so Washington bureaucrats can no longer deny homeless people help just because they’re children.”