By now, you know that Congress avoided another shutdown by passing a budget bill late last year, which happened to include increased funding for homelessness assistance. But did you know that this budget bill also does a lot to support homeless youth?
First, it should be noted that any increase to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) homeless assistance programs means an increase for homeless youth, since many 18-24 year olds—especially those that are young parents with small children—are served within adult homelessness programs funded by HUD.
But the new budget bill also sets aside up to $33 million for HUD “to demonstrate how a comprehensive approach to serving homeless youth… can dramatically reduce youth homelessness.” The projects funded by this $33 million will be eligible for renewal under the Continuum of Care (CoC) program and will be based in up to ten communities, four of which will be rural communities. These projects will presumably help communities develop the same effective systems response to youth homelessness that so many have implemented to reduce and end homelessness among other populations, like veterans. The bill also provides up to $5 million for technical assistance aimed at improving the response to youth homelessness, data collection, and performance analysis of any comprehensive approaches that may be developed.
Additionally, report language for the bill includes $2.5 million for HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R), in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to evaluate youth homelessness programs and $2 million for PD&R to conduct a national incidence and prevalence study of homeless youth. (This study has been authorized in the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act for years, but has never been funded.)
And that’s just the HUD parts of the budget! The new bill also increases funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs to $119 million. Additionally, funding for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (ECHY) program has been increased to $70 million.
In addition to these important funding increases, this new budget bill makes clear that youth aged 24 and under, including young parents with children, are not required to provide third-party documentation to be served by HUD programs. (They can self-certify.) And due to all the confusion in the field about youth eligibility, the bill also (helpfully) clarifies that youth who are living in unsafe situations are, in fact, eligible for HUD services.
While we still need a lot more funding to be able to end youth homelessness by the 2020 goal set in Opening Doors, this most recent budget bill is a good step forward. The Alliance will continue to advocate for increased funding for youth and for the development of an effective systemic response to end youth homelessness!