Letter to the Hon. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, and the Hon. Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader - Yarmuth Leads Bipartisan Push for Increased Homeless Youth Funding in COVID-19 Response
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:
We write to respectfully request that you include provisions to support children, youth, and
families experiencing homelessness during this crisis in a supplemental package addressing the
ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). While we appreciate that the Coronavirus
Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act included some funding related to
homelessness, most children and youth experiencing homelessness are not eligible for a majority
of services provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's
Emergency Solutions Grant, nor does this program meet their unique and complex needs.
Dedicated funding is needed through the programs and systems that are best positioned to help
them immediately, and ensure their long-term stability.
Homelessness harms the health, development, safety, and education of children and youth. The
longer a young child experiences homelessness, the more that negative outcomes are magnified,
causing lifelong effects on the child, and in turn, the family and community. Prior to the COVID19 outbreak, public schools determined a record 1.5 million homeless children and youth, aged
preK-12, for the most recent year reported (2017-2018) within our school systems. The U.S.
Department of Education also estimates that 1.4 million children under age six are experiencing
homelessness and national research from the University of Chicago's Chapin Hall found that
approximately 4.2 million youth ages 13-25 were homeless on their own during a 12-month
period. The current economic crisis, and family stress related to shelter-in-place orders, are
expected to create new waves of youth and family homelessness.
The experience of homelessness also has a damaging impact on academic achievement. Based on
reporting from 49 states, the 2017-2018 national average graduation rate for homeless students
was 67.8 percent; more than 10 percent below other low-income students (79.5 percent). The low
graduation rate of homeless students is of particular concern because lack of a high school
degree or GED is the single greatest risk factor for homelessness as a young adult. Finally,
homeless youth and young adults are at great risk of victimization and assault. Recent data from
the National Human Trafficking Hotline shows that being a homeless youth and living in
unstable housing are two of the top risk factors for human trafficking.
Now more than ever, these children and youth need our attention. The coronavirus outbreak has
created even more barriers to their survival, and to accessing the programs and services they
need to regain their footing. We urgently request the following:
* At least $300 million for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) program,
administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has 45 years of
expertise in holistically preventing and serving young people experiencing homelessness
by building relationships with youth, meeting their immediate needs, providing short and
long-term residential services, and conducting prevention and outreach efforts to move
youth out of homelessness. Of this amount, $150 million will be disbursed to existing
RHYA grantees and the remaining funds will be used to expand services through new
* At least $500 million for the McKinney-Vento Act's Education for Homeless Children
and Youth (EHCY) program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education and
reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act, removes barriers to school enrollment,
attendance, and success caused by homelessness. Under the law, every local educational
agency must designate a local liaison to ensure the identification of homeless children
and youth, as well as school access, stability, and coordination of services. School
closures have been devastating for homeless children and youth; they have lost one of the
safest and most stable places in their lives. In considering this request, it is noteworthy
that Congress has provided supplemental support through the EHCY program in the past,
both in response to the recession in 2008, as well as three different disaster-related
* At least $2 million for an online curriculum that will train parents, teachers, and students
how to recognize the indicators of trafficking. This is needed now when students are
spending even more time online with their peers.
* At least $25 million in supplemental funding for existing Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS) trafficking grantees to provide direct survivor support and
operate the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
* At least $2 billion for a Family Stabilization Fund to provide flexible funding for
community organizations to meet the unique needs of children, youth, and families
experiencing homelessness. This funding would allow youth- and family-serving
agencies to provide immediate support to children, youth, and families, no matter where
they happen to be staying -- including those who are ineligible for HUD homeless
assistance because they do not meet HUD's narrow definition of homelessness. Providing
housing-related and other services to children, youth and families experiencing
homelessness as early as possible will reduce transmission of COVID-19, and mitigate
compounding trauma and negative lifelong impacts of homelessness.
In combination, this request will bolster and expand the vital work of key federal programs to
help move homeless children, youth, and families from crisis to stabilization, healing, and,
ultimately, self-sufficiency. This holistic approach will help ensure that prolonged homelessness
does not result from the coronavirus outbreak, and that we protect the futures of our most
vulnerable children, youth, and families.
We urge you to prioritize their needs in the supplemental package that Congress approves. This
will help to stabilize and support vulnerable children and youth during the outbreak and
recovery, and also help to prevent entrenched chronic adult homelessness in the future. Thank
you for your time and attention on this important matter.