Youth and Children the Focus of Federal Plan to End Homelessness Amendment

An update to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness’ Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, released on September 12, provides more detail on what must be done for young people experiencing homelessness, including unaccompanied youth. The amendment to the 2010 Federal Plan is the result of extensive advocacy by the Law Center and our partners*, and includes many of the recommendations we put forth.

The federal plan, known as Opening Doors, is the first federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. One of its four goals is to end homelessness among families, children, and youth by 2020.  The Council says this amendment “provides further clarity on what needs to be done specifically for children and youth” in order to achieve that.

As a leader in protecting the rights of homeless children and youth, including unaccompanied homeless youth, the Law Center provided crucial guidance. Just last week, the Law Center released “Alone Without a Home,” a comprehensive guide to the laws in 50 states and six U.S. territories affecting unaccompanied homeless youth.  The report provides recommendations for addressing the needs of the 1.6 million youth who experience homelessness without a parent or guardian each year. It suggests replacing laws that criminally punish homeless youth as runaways or truants with policies to divert them from court involvement. Secondly, it calls on states to expand access to services for unaccompanied youth, even without parental consent.

Opening Doors encompasses ten objectives grouped into five themes. One objective, under the theme of “Increase Economic Security,” originally aimed to “increase meaningful and successful employment for people experiencing or most at risk of homelessness,” which is certainly a laudable goal. However, it now also aims to “improve access to education” for this population. For children and youth, a stable education is not only a near-prerequisite to obtaining gainful employment later in life; it is also integral to their well-being, and a guaranteed right under federal law.

Another objective, under the theme of “Improve Health and Stability,” sought in the original plan to advance health and housing stability for youth aging out of systems such as foster care and juvenile justice. Again, all well and good – but what about the 1.6 million unaccompanied youth who experience homelessness every year, commonly through no fault of their own? The revised plan seeks to improve health and housing stability for this group, as well. It is here that the Law Center’s recent report, “Alone Without a Home,” will be particularly helpful.

The Law Center is pleased that our work has resulted in changes, but as Andy reminded us in his recent post, words alone don’t create material change. There remains much more work to ensure that these changes end up benefitting actual children and youth who are, or at risk of becoming, homeless.

- Mary Beth Morrissey, Development & Communications Associate

* Our partners include the National Association for the Education of Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and the National Center on Family Homelessness.

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One Response to Youth and Children the Focus of Federal Plan to End Homelessness Amendment

  1. kristie koshen says:

    I live in Racine, WI and I moved from Dodge County WI by Madison WI. I could not believe the number of homeless people by the capital of WI.To find that they were treated so disrespectful was such a disgrace! I did a volunteer trip to Washington DC and found the same problem. The police would kick them out of parks, public places, so where are they to go? With all the empty buildings a few of us tryed to get them opened for shelters and that did not work.
    Can you help with information on how to open shelters that offers services that homeless need including AODA? Meals to be provided as well. There is such a need for all of this and I can’t believe that people turn their heads and say it’s their fault.
    Please help with advise or information if you can.
    Thank you,
    Kristie Koshen

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