In January, I keynoted a conference on unaccompanied homeless youth in Houston, hosted by One Voice Texas. I shared advice and best practices from our updated guidebook on laws affecting unaccompanied youth, Alone Without A Home, to help a local coalition that was trying to address the almost total lack of services available to this vulnerable population.
Even local advocates who wanted to help these youth were hindered by confusing and conflicting consent and notification laws that put service providers at risk for liability. But based on the best practices in our manual, One Voice and its partners helped draft, and pass SB 717, which enables Texas youth who are homeless or relying on friends and strangers for a temporary place to sleep to sign for their own medical treatment as well as to contract for transitional living arrangements.
As One Voice notes in its press release:
“Allowing minors 16 and over to consent to their own transitional housing will be a great help in our quest to end homelessness in Texas communities,” said Ken Martin, Executive Director of Texas Homeless Network. “These young people all too often find themselves with very few options for decent and safe housing. SB 717 provides an avenue for them to have a safe place to learn skills and work towards a goal of independence and self-sufficiency.”
Dr. Katherine Barillas, Director of Child Welfare Policy for One Voice Texas, represented the more than 100 health and human services organizations that make up One Voice Texas as she provided testimony in support of the bill.
“This legislation is an important step forward in addressing the unique needs of youth who are homeless,” acknowledged Barillas. “We still have a lot of work to do and One Voice Texas looks forward to engaging partners all across Texas and nationally in further collaboration regarding this critical issue.”
We at the Law Center are proud of our Texas partners and the progress they’ve made in removing this crucial legal barrier to unaccompanied youth accessing services, and look forward to continuing to work with them and others until no youth has to face a single night sleeping on the street.
– Eric Tars, Director of Human Rights and Children’s Rights Programs