Runaway and Homeless Youth

NCY POSITION

The National Collaboration for Youth believes that:

  • All children and young people deserve, at a minimum, a safe, secure environment in which to live and grow.
  • The needs of runaway and homeless young people and their families are often complex and require a range of services from a variety of organizations.
  • A comprehensive approach is needed to enlist and coordinate the many organizations that have a role in preventing and responding to youth homelessness, including, among others, those that provide street outreach, shelter services, day care, health clinics, transitional or independent living services, and youth development activities.
  • All support should aim to prevent unnecessary referrals to the juvenile justice system, and use a youth development approach which will foster self-esteem and encourage individual empowerment and eventual self-sufficiency.
  • All support should aim to strengthen families whatever their individual configuration and to promote reunification of families whenever consistent with the safety and well-being of young people.
  • The problem of family shelters not accepting youth members of homeless families should be examined.

PUBLIC POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

Congress should take the following actions related to runaway and homeless youth:

  • Congress and the Executive Branch should take the following steps to ensure an appropriate response to the needs of runaway and homeless youth:
  • Expand funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which establishes three national programs:
  • the Basic Center Program which provides temporary shelter for youth in crisis and counseling for those youths and their families;
  • the Transitional Living Program which assists older homeless youth to move successfully toward independence; and
  • the Street Outreach Program which connects youth on the streets to services and prevents sexual abuse and exploitation of these youths.
  • Increase funding for and improve the implementation of the McKinney - Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
  • Ensure that services, supports and opportunities for young people are part of the local continuum of care efforts funded through the HUD McKinney-Vento Act programs.
  • Enhance funding for the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program and enforce the requirement that all barriers to public school enrollment, attendance and success of homeless children and youth are eliminated.
  • Ensure that, for short periods of time, alternatives to mainstreaming are available to homeless youth under the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program, to provide supplementary services to meet the unique needs of these youth.
  • Provide federal leadership to encourage cooperation at all levels of government and to involve leaders in state and local government and nonprofit organizations to better address the problems of runaway and homeless youth.
  • Provide federal support for aggressive campaigns and increased coordination to prevent child abuse and neglect, and provide early, effective intervention.
  • Improve homeless youths' access to health care, education, job training programs, and national service.
  • Support legislation for better low-income housing options and improved access to housing programs for young adults, including Section 8 vouchers for youth receiving services or graduating from transitional living programs or aging out of the foster care system.