runaway and homeless youth act

Policy Advocacy and Human Trafficking

Written by: Eric Masten, Director of Public Policy, National Network for Youth

Recently, former-President Obama proclaimed January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Unfortunately, human trafficking still occurs throughout our country, and youth and young adults experiencing homelessness are particularly susceptible to becoming victims of trafficking. Throughout the country, the National Network for Youth’s members, funded through the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) provide support and assistance to runaway or homeless youth who are particularly at risk of being victims of either sex or labor trafficking.

Many factors contribute to the overall number of homeless youth each year, but common reasons are family dysfunction, exiting the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, and sexual abuse. Youth who have been victims of abuse are more likely to exchange sex for basic necessities that they lack. A 2016 study from the Administration on Children and Families’ Family and Youth Services Bureau noted that nearly one-quarter of participants (24.1%) exchanged sex for money, 27.5% exchanged sex for shelter, and other participants exchanged sex for other basic needs such as food or protection.

Homeless youth are also vulnerable to labor trafficking because the traffickers promise them what they do not have – food, housing and employment. In a survey conducted with the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking, of the homeless youth providers that screened for child labor trafficking, each program had identified at least one labor trafficked youth.

Fortunately, RHYA funded programs have experience providing youth at risk of being trafficked with a safe place to stay and offer services to survivors of trafficking to help them heal from the trauma they have faced. Street Outreach Programs help 25,000 youth find shelter each year. In particular, Street Outreach Programs work closely with other organizations that work to protect and treat young people who have been or are at risk of sexual abuse or exploitation. Basic Center Programs and Transitional Living Programs prevent vulnerable youth from becoming victims of human trafficking by providing them with a safe place to stay, crisis interventions services and meeting their basic needs.

RHYA, legislation that is vital in helping to prevent and support youth and young adults who are vulnerable to trafficking because they are experiencing homelessness, is now due to be reauthorized. More than 50 national organizations have come together as part of the National Coalition for Homeless Youth to support reauthorizing RHYA by passing the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act. With a strong history of bipartisan support, this legislation will ensure that providers throughout the country continue to provide its crucial programs that support youth who are, or are at risk of, experiencing homelessness and potentially being trafficked.

Visit the National Network for Youth’s webpage to learn more about the intersection between human trafficking and runaway and homeless youth.

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Cutting Through the Noise: Advocating for our Kids during the Presidential Election

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

As a political junkie, I love presidential election years. I especially love years like this: where a few months ago there was no incumbent and wide-open races on both sides (depending on who you ask). These campaign cycles can also be incredibly frustrating. Candidates visit small towns where they would never otherwise set foot, eat state fair food, rub elbows with locals, and mug for photos. It all feels inauthentic. Fake. How can a long-serving U.S. senator really speak on behalf of working families? How can a billionaire relate to middle class workers? How can privileged white men and women relate to the plights of runaway youth? How can powerful people understand what it’s like to be homeless when they have never had to worry whether they will have a place to sleep, or a hot meal and shower waiting for them in the morning?

This is where we come in. As advocates, youth workers, execs leading youth and family-serving agencies, it’s up to us to make sure the needs of these young people and families are heard. We need to beat the drum to make sure affordable housing, funds for runaway and homeless youth programs, and affordable health care for young people are priorities for elected leaders at all levels of government – from city council to the President of the United States.

Here are some ideas for getting involved this election year:

  1. Host elected officials at your organization or shelter. Show them around and explain how you operate, what you need, and what it means to the young people you serve. This could include your city officials, state senators and representations, or US congress members. If you are in an early caucus or primary state, you may even be able to get a presidential candidate (see above comments).
  2. Write Letters to the Editor of your local papers. Highlight your programs and how proposed legislative changes (at all levels of government), will impact your agencies and the youth you service, for the better or worse.
  3. Communicate with your elected officials. Make phone calls. Email them. National officials track the number of calls and emails they receive on specific issues. State officials often do the same. It may not seems like they are listening, they are tracking!
  4. Encourage your staff to vote. Encourage young people to vote. Take young people to the primaries or election in November. Help them register. It’s their right.

However you get involved, don’t pass up this opportunity to make your voice heard and advocate on behalf of the young people we serve.

President Obama’s FY 2017 Budget Released

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

President Obama released his 2017 budget proposal last week. It includes some bright spots in funding for runaway and homeless youth programs and supports for child welfare programs. This is just a proposal though, and serves as a blueprint Congress will use to build its own budget.

Here are some highlights from the proposal:

  • $6 million increase for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, including the Basic Center, Street Outreach, and Transitional Living Programs.
  • $2 million to conduct a prevalence study of youth homelessness
  • $11 Billion to address family homelessness through creating of housing vouchers and rapid re-housing assistance
  • $85 million for the education of homeless youth
  • Funds to support demonstration grants to help states implement the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014

For additional highlights of homeless programs in general, check out a summary from the National Alliance to End Homelessness: http://www.endhomelessness.org/page/-/files/FY%202017%20Budget%20Rundown.pdf

For additional information about programs and funding related specifically to children and young people, check out First Focus’s highlights: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/docs/NSPN/big-investments-in-kids-in-the-presidents-budget.pdf

Helpful Resource from Polaris Project

Polaris Project, an organization leading the global fight to end modern slavery and restore freedom to survivors, posted an article on their website intended to help enhance services provided for LGBTQ human trafficking victims.

Breaking Barriers: Improving Services for LGBTQ Human Trafficking Victims

Excerpt: “Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ) may be disproportionately affected by human trafficking. They face higher rates of discrimination and homelessness, making them especially vulnerable to traffickers.”

Read the full article here: http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/resources/breaking-barriers-lgbtq-services

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The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives

Statement from Laurie Jackson, President/CEO of National Safe Place Network, on the introduction of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act

“On behalf of National Safe Place Network members, licensed Safe Place agencies and runaway and homeless youth grantees, we are pleased this bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressmen John Yarmuth and Dave Reichert are working to advance needed updates to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. These updates will provide more flexibility and resources for agencies serving runaway and homeless youth across the country.

We applaud the efforts of the Congressmen and the National Network for Youth and their partners for leading this reauthorization effort and championing the needs of runaway, homeless and vulnerable youth.”

National Network for Youth Press Release: Bipartisan Bill to Reauthorize RHYA Introduced in the House – April 15, 2015: https://www.nn4youth.org/press-releases/2015/04/15/rhytpahouseintroduction2015/

Senators Leahy and Collins Introduce the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA)

Earlier this week, Senators Leahy and Collins introduced the bipartisan Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (read more about the bill and track its progress here: http://1.usa.gov/1JTW89Q). Although there is no bipartisan bill yet in the House, National Network for Youth and partners are working hard to make sure that happens.

This legislation serves homeless youth through the following programs:

  • Basic Center Program provides grants to community and nonprofit organizations to support emergency shelters and services to reunite youth with their families;
  • Street Outreach Programs provides outreach services to at-risk youth;
  • Transitional Living Program provides housing and life skill support to older youth 16-22 years old.

These programs serve thousands of youth each year and are critically important in every state. In Federal Fiscal Year 2014, the Basic Center Program served 30,536 children in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. The Transitional Living Program served 2, 788 youth and the Street Outreach Program made contact with over 460,000 youth during the same time period. These young people often have nowhere else to turn when a crisis occurs.

The recently introduced legislation authorized funds to complete the National Study on the prevalence, Needs and Incidence of Homeless Youth in America – a study which will provide a better understanding of the size and needs of America’s homeless youth populations. The bill increases the length of stay for Basic Center Programs from 21 days to 30 days, allowing for addition access to reunification services. The legislation also includes a nondiscrimination clause that has already been adopted by programs across the country, ensuring housing and services will be provided fairly to youth.

This is a necessary step in providing services for homeless youth across the country.

National Network for Youth is circulating a sign-on letter to support this legislation. Read more about it and sign-on here: http://bit.ly/1yegkvy.