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Congress Takes a Stand against Youth Homelessness with Reauthorized Bill

Written by Je'Lissa on . Posted in Policy Advocacy, Youth

On January 27, 2015, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) to expand programs for vulnerable youth who are homeless and on their own. The National Coalition for the Homeless strongly endorses this legislation.

This bill would reauthorize and expand the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, a law that expired in the last Congress. The new bill, titled the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA), will continue programs for unaccompanied homeless youth with increased funding for services such as transitional housing and street outreach. Expansion of RHYTPA also ensures LGBTQ youth are granted access to services free of discrimination. It also expands support for survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

The National Coalition applauds the work of Senators Collins, Leahy, Ayotte, and Booker on this important piece of legislation. We urge Congress to pass this legislation without delay.

Growing Crisis in D.C.

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Awareness, Families, Housing, Policy Advocacy, Prevention, Shelter

Growing Crisis Takes Over D.C. – Auburn Trotter, NCH Intern

When I moved to DC to intern with NCH, I knew that I would gain a new perspective on the housing policies in America, but never did I think that the nation’s capitol would be suffering from such a crisis. In January 2014, a Point-in-Time count showed that a total of 7,748 people experienced homelessness  in the District of Columbia. This number increased 12.9%  from the previous year’s count. While cities surrounding the metropolitan area have decreased their homeless populations, the District has not seen much change. In fact, D.C.’s homeless population continues to rise at an alarming rate.

It’s important to first recognize that there are city officials who have fought hard to push forward possible solutions to this issue. It wouldn’t be fair to say that our officials haven’t done anything to try and curb this issue. Legislation has been introduced and passed. Plans to transition families from shelters to permanent homes are being strategized. Our leaders have the will to address the issue but even with these efforts the problem has continued to spiral out of control. So the lingering question becomes, why does homelessness continue to exist at a crisis level in the nation’s capital? The answer is two simple words: affordable housing!

There are many reasons that people find themselves homeless, but the lack of affordable housing remains one of the leading causes. With rents rising all around the city, what are people left to do? Some would say “go live with friends or relatives,” but a majority of the time families do not have room to accommodate others in their living space. So the next natural answer would be to report to the Public Housing Authority (PHA) and seek assistance. Thanks to the 2013 sequester and budget cuts, this has become a dead-end option. With funds being cut by 5%, PHAs across the country encounter difficulties trying to serve those in need. In fact, DC’s housing authority closed its Section 8 voucher wait list, which contained 70,000 people at the time, in April of 2013 and has not re-opened since.

After being told “NO” on several instances, the next and last resort for many people is a shelter. Many of the residents at D.C. General emergency shelter, the area’s largest family shelter, will tell you that they are thankful for the shelter and for having a roof over their heads, but it is not a place where they want to be raising a family. Many have jobs where they work long hours, just to receive a poverty level income. City officials want them to apply for assistance programs where, after their time in the program has ended, they face a rent payment of $900-$1200 depending on the size of the apartment.

Homelessness and increasing rents are serious issues that need an urgent response.  Ultimately, the homeless crisis will continue to get worse unless the city invests in sustainable, affordable housing for its residents. A strong housing policy could significantly reduce the size of our current homeless population and prevent thousands of others from losing their homes. There is no reason that we cannot decrease homelessness in our city. But we must all take action.

Delaware Introduces a Homeless Bill of Rights

Written by NCH Staff on . Posted in Advocacy, Civil Rights, Policy Advocacy, Public Education

Delaware Introduces a Homeless Bill of Rights – by Kristin Howard, NCH Intern

Delaware, nicknamed the First State, may soon be the fourth state to pass a Homeless Bill of Rights. Introduced in the House on June 3, 2014 by primary sponsor Representative Stephanie Bolden, the Bill’s chief objective is to ensure that people experiencing homelessness receive the same rights and privileges as everyone else. They should not be on the receiving end of discriminatory, disparate treatment simply because they are without a home. While equality is the overall goal, the Bill is comprehensive; it enumerates certain rights that the homeless should never be denied.

These enumerated rights address temporary shelters, public spaces, and other fundamental rights that the rest of the population is regularly afforded. Under this Bill, the homeless will have the ability to move freely in public spaces without harassment and will have protection against discrimination based on current housing status when either dealing with government officials and agencies, such as police officials, or when seeking employment and permanent housing. Furthermore, when accessing temporary shelter, discrimination based on race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, national origin, or housing status will be prohibited. And while residing in these temporary shelters, individuals are further entitled to a reasonable right to privacy with regards to their personal possessions, along with protection from unlawful disclosure of records and private information. Additionally, the fundamental right to vote cannot be denied to the homeless population for lack of permanent address; a park or temporary shelter may be utilized for registration purposes. Lastly, emergency medical care must be provided and cannot be withheld due to housing status.

Delaware’s Homeless Bill of Rights, which is currently pending in the Housing and Community Affairs Committee, amends Title 6 by adding Chapter 78. It will provide the basic legal and civil protections that never should have been denied in the first place.

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