Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) on Tuesday reintroduced bipartisan legislation to curb youth homelessness, which affects 1.6 million teens throughout the country who are among the most likely to become victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) joined as original bill cosponsors.
Leahy noted that the winter snowstorms in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions currently threatening the safety of thousands of Americans spotlight the importance of passing this bipartisan bill to ensure that homeless children are not left to face such challenges alone.
Leahy said: “Homelessness is on the rise for youths and young adults. Too many young people in Vermont and around the country find themselves without safe places to sleep at night. These programs, offering outreach and early intervention for runaway and homeless teens, are the last line of defense for teens in crisis. Youth homelessness also can be a pipeline to chronic homelessness, victimization, sexual exploitation and trafficking in urban and rural communities. It’s our job in Congress to do what we can to counter this tragic reality, this scandal in the shadows. I am proud to say that last year, 95 percent of teens receiving services from the Vermont Coalition for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs were able to exit to safe living situations.”
Thirty-nine percent of the homeless population is under the age of 18, and the average age at which a teen becomes homeless is 14.7 years old. A 2013 study by the Convenant House offers startling details about the connection between youth homelessness and human trafficking. The Leahy-Collins Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act reauthorizes programs that help youth obtain housing, education and job training. The bill includes training for service providers to identify victims of trafficking, and it includes a new provision that prohibits grantees from denying services based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Leahy and Collins introduced similar legislation last year, which earned bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee but stalled in the Senate. Leahy has long been a champion of youth services provided by the original Runaway and Homeless Youth Protection Act and fought for its reauthorization in 1998 and again in 2003. He has also worked for years to counter the tragedy of human trafficking, most recently by including a reauthorization of the bipartisan Trafficking Victims Protection Act as part of his Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act in 2013, and by supporting increased appropriations for trafficking victims under last year’s Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
Collins said: “As Chairman of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, one of my goals is to address chronic homelessness. We must make sure our nation’s homeless youth have the same opportunity to succeed as other youth. The programs reauthorized by this bill are critical in helping homeless youth stay off the street and find stable, sustainable housing.”
The bill is supported by the National Network for Youth, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, the True Colors Fund, the Center for American Progress, and the Human Rights Campaign, among many others.
A copy of the bill is available online.
At-A-Glance Facts About Youth Homelessness In Vermont:
(Data sources include the AHS Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Vermont Annual Report – State Fiscal Year 2014)
- The most recent one-day Point-In-Time Count of homeless Americans (January 2014) indicates that on any given night, about 1556 Vermonters are without housing. This represents a 9.27 percent (or 144 person) increase over the previous year. 371 of those (24 percent) of those Vermonters were children under the age of 18.
- Between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, Vermont’s HUD-funded emergency shelters, domestic violence shelters, veterans’ shelters and youth shelters reported an increase both in the number of children and the length of stay for children under the age of 18.
- Vermont’s effort to end family homelessness by 2020 is supported nationally by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.