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National Network to End Family Homelessness

Policy Alert

Homeless Children and Youth Act
(HCYA) of 2017
 
This brief takes an introductory look at the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017 (HCYA), focusing on how the legislation aligns HUD’s definition of homelessness with the experience of families. Next week, we’ll send a second brief with more details of how the HCYA would impact your work as a provider.
 

The Definition of Homelessness: HCYA Aligns Federal Policy With the Facts

As we talk with providers and partners across the country, we often hear that HUD’s current definition of homelessness negatively impacts providers’ capacity to serve families. Research also shows that HUD’s definition does not accurately reflect the experience of homelessness for many families.

Under current law, HUD defines homelessness as living in emergency shelter, transitional or supportive housing, and places not meant for human habitation such as cars, parks, and abandoned buildings [1].
However, the recent Chapin Hall Voices of Youth Count [2] data show that homelessness involves multiple circumstances that span beyond what’s included in this definition. The majority of homeless young people [3] – many of whom are pregnant or parenting [4] – spend periods of time sleeping outside, in cars, in shelters, and on other people’s couches or floors. The data indicate that homelessness is a fluid experience, that housing instability often starts young, and that there is great risk of harm and predation occurring while youth are staying with others – as well as in shelters.

The same is true for most families experiencing homelessness. Many homeless families have a hard time getting the services they need to live healthy and stable lives. This is true for families staying temporarily with others, staying in motels, and for families staying in shelter settings. In fact, research has documented that staying in doubled-up situations often presents more significant barriers to stabilization than experienced by families living in shelters [5]. Ignoring this data, HUD’s definition of homelessness  doesn’t include families who are staying with others because they have nowhere else to go, or those staying in motels not paid for by government or charity. This minimizes the issue, limits the resources available to address it, and excludes some of the most vulnerable families from services they desperately need.

The HCYA aligns HUD’s definition of homelessness with research and provider experience which more accurately captures the extent of homelessness in our communities and brings us one step closer to effectively addressing this national tragedy.
 
How You Can Help
 
We urge National Network members to learn more about the HCYA. At the Help Homeless Children and Youth website, you can find out who your elected officials are, and see how to call or write them [6]. We also encourage you to reach out to your local officials in person. Please contact Barbara Duffield, Co-Chair of the Network’s Policy Committee, if you have any questions about the HCYA.
1 HUD’s definition of homelessness is more limiting than the definition offered by other federal agencies. To learn more, visit the following link: https://www.nhchc.org/faq/official-definition- homelessness/

3 The study found that 1 in 10 youth ages 18-25 and 1 in 30 youth ages 13-17  experience homelessness over a 12-month period.

4 The study found that one in three young women experiencing homelessness are pregnant or parenting.

5 Read this study from the University of Wisconsin, Madison:
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0013124512469814
 
6 To learn more about the HCYA: http://helphomelesskidsnow.org
 
 
 
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