The Coalition's Campaign on Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness: Accompany the Youth!
Across the United States, there are an estimated 1.6 million unaccompanied youth who are experiencing homelessness. 2011 data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), released in August 2012, estimated that there were 5,853 students in Massachusetts public high who were experiencing homelessness and not in the custody of their parent or legal guardian. (To see more data from ESE, click here.) Additional efforts are underway to get a more accurate count of the full extent of unaccompanied youth homelessness in the Commonwealth.
Since 2010, the Coalition has convened a Task Force on Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness to bring together providers, advocates, and youth to work together to improve and expand housing and services for unaccompanied youth. Click here for a timeline of the unaccompanied youth homelessness campaign. To see a list of the participating and endorsing organizations, click here.
From 2012 to the present, the Coalition has been meeting with more and more young people, who have shared their stories, personal experiences, and advice with us, members of the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth, and legislators. Please click here to read more about some of the barriers these youth face, the strength they exhibit, and their recommendations for the future: "Their Stories, Our Responsibility: Accounts from Unaccompanied Youth Experiencing Homelessness" (Spring 2013). For more recent stories, please click here to see our Enduring Voices series (Winter 2014).
An Act Providing Housing and Support Services to Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (House Bill 4517, formerly known as House Bill 135):
For the 2013-2014 legislative cycle, the Coalition and our partners are working with Representative Jim O'Day of West Bolyston, (now former) Senator Katherine Clark of Melrose, and other key legislative allies such as Representative Kay Khan of Newton and Senator Harriette Chandler of Worcester, to file and promote "An Act Providing Housing and Support Services to Unaccompanied Homeless Youth" (House Bill 135). Similar to House Bill 3838 from the 2011-2012 session, this bill calls on the state to fund a continuum of housing and support services for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. The new bill includes youth and young adults through age 24, and looks to further the work of the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth, which was established through the FY'13 budget process.
On August 12, 2013, the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities reported the bill out favorably, and sent it to the House Committee on Ways and Means (HWM).
We are very pleased to report that on November 3, 2014, HWM reported the bill out favorably, with a few positive additions, including language to put the Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth into state statute. The bill was sent to the House Committee on Steering, Policy, and Scheduling, which promptly moved it forward that day. Currently, the bill is awaiting action by the House Committee on Bills in the Third Reading. To see if your Representative is a member of the House Committee on Bills in the Third Reading, please click here.
- Fact sheet, updated 12-15-14 (Previous fact sheet from 11-12-14)
- Legislative page for House Bill 4517, including bill language and page for House Bill 135
- Legislative sign-on letter in support of House Bill 135 to House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, initiated by Representative Jim O'Day and signed by 67 legislators (6-19-14)
- Tool kit for taking action
- The Coalition's video on unaccompanied youth homelessness and House Bill 3838 (from last session)
Please help us reach more fully engage State Legislators in this campaign! Please call your State Representative and State Senator to ask them to speak to Leadership to express their strong support for House Bill 4517/135, An Act providing housing and support services to unaccompanied homeless youth. Legislators can be reached by calling the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000. To determine who your legislators are, please go to www.wheredoivotema.com.
Not sure what to say? Here's a short sample script you can use:
"Hello, my name is ____. I live at (street address) in (city/town). I am calling to ask (name of legislator) to express (her/his) strong support for House Bill 135, An Act providing housing and support services to unaccompanied homeless youth, to Legislative Leadership. Right now, this bill is awaiting action by the House Committee on Ways and Means. As a constituent, I want (her/him) to know that swift action is needed, as thousands of unaccompanied youth, teenagers and young adults in their early 20s, are experiencing homelessness out on their own, without a safety net. Could you please follow-up with me to let me know what actions the legislator plans to take? Thank you for your time!"
See our related action alert here. *
We are advocating for language in the FY'15 budget to begin to address the needs of unaccompanied youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness by funding housing and services and by conducting a second annual count to better understand the scope of the need. We are asking for $500,000 within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services administrative line item (EOHHS – Line Item 4000-0300). Please see our campaign fact sheet and present policy campaigns page for more details. (Survey responses from approximately 2,000 young people were collected in late January - early February 2014. The data has been entered as of mid-March, and the Commission and partners are in the process of analyzing that data so as to better understand the experiences and needs of unaccompanied youth and young adults.)
The Massachusetts Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth:
The FY'13 budget included key language from the bill to establish a special statewide commission on unaccompanied youth. Click here to see the Coalition's press release on passage of budget language to establish the special commission and here to see the text of the budget language, as signed into law. The commission's work began in December 2012.
Here is the Commission's inaugural report, released in June 2013. In addition, here is an overview of the Commission's work through April 2013, as well as are some materials from the Commission's inaugural meeting on December 17, 2012.
A status update on the work of the Commission was released on March 31, 2014, and is available here: Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Status Report
An analysis of the process and results of the first-in-the-nation statewide youth homelessness survey was released on October 1, 2014, and is available here: Massachusetts Youth Count 2014: Overview and Analysis
Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness Advisory Board Working Group on Youth Homelessness:
In January 2012, the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH) Advisory Board formed a working group on unaccompanied youth homelessness. The working group is chaired by Bridge Over Troubled Waters and the Coalition. In September 2012, the working group's subcommittees made recommendations to the ICHH regarding how to define unaccompanied youth homelessness, as well as preliminary recommendations on how to count unaccompanied youth who are experiencing homelessness.
If you are a young adult, click here to access the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance's 2012 Young Adult Resource Guide. (Some resources listed also may be helpful to you if you are under 18 and out on your own.) For youth-focused legal resources related to immigration, LGBTQ, housing, domestic violence and CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) issues, please go to www.littlenomads.org.
Related Blog Posts:
Recent and Upcoming Events Focused on Youth Homelessness:
July 10, 2014: State House briefing on LGBTQ youth homelessness, co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth.
March 6, 2014: "No Place Like Home" film screening and panel discussion at the State House. To view the documentary online, please follow this link.
February 27, 2014: Legislative Action Day 2014 at the State House
February 6, 2014: State House Call-In Day to push for passage of House Bill 135
November 18, 2014: Massachusetts Youth Count conference, sponsored by the Massachusetts Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth and hosted by Clark University: Pictures from the conference.
October 10, 2013: Legislative briefing at the State House in honor of World Homeless Day, sponsored by the Coalition and State Representative Jim O'Day. An invitation to share with your legislators is coming soon.
May 9, 2013: The Face of Youth Homelessness in South Berkshire County, organized by Crissey Farm, Railroad Street Youth Project, CHP-South Berkshire Community Coalition, and Construct, Inc.
April 10, 2013: Visions of Change Youth Summit, organized by the Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance
April 9, 2013: The State of Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness in the Commonwealth legislative briefing
April 3, 2013: "Raising Our Voice for Youth" State House call-in day
February 27, 2013: Legislative Action Day & Youth on the Hill Day
February 25 - March 1, 2013: "Our Stories, Our Art: At the Intersection of Homelessness and Creativity" gallery exhibit