State legislatures across the country are passing laws that empower youth experiencing homelessness to access housing, health care, higher education, and vital documents. In our January 27 newsletter, we wrote about Wyoming’s HB 159, which allows unaccompanied minors experiencing homelessness to obtain their own birth certificates, consent for housing and services, get a job, buy a car, and sign up for college. Thanks to the persistence of a coalition of community agencies, schools, young people, and policymakers of both parties, the bill passed both houses of the legislature and is on its way to the governor. You can listen to a short clip of one Republican senator’s moving speech in favor of the bill.
In Utah, McKinney-Vento liaison Connie Crosby led a campaign to provide access to health care for unaccompanied youth. Connie explained the law, and her experience working on it, in this way:
“After years of learning from you and others, I had the courage to speak up and work with the Utah Legislature to help change our state law in regards to medical care for unaccompanied minors. I started working with our legislators last fall as a voice for unaccompanied minors. SB160 passed both the House and Senate unanimously. Utah will now allow unaccompanied minors experiencing homelessness to obtain medical care without a legal guardian.” Connie Crosby, Canyons School District, Sandy, Utah.
While legislatures in Utah and Wyoming already have passed laws supporting unaccompanied youth, bills remain under consideration in other states. For example, the Texas legislature is considering HB 2355, our bill to provide college students experiencing homelessness with priority access to campus housing, as well as requiring campuses to designate a liaison to connect students to financial aid, housing, food programs, and counseling services. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Shawn Thierry, noted that, “HB 2355 is in keeping with the spirit of Texas family values…. This bill will not only keep our homeless young people from shuffling from place to place, but it will actually help them matriculate through college and become vital, productive Texans.”
At the same time, the Connecticut legislature is considering HB 7156, a bill recognizing that unaccompanied students experiencing homelessness need access to their student records. The bill will build upon existing U.S. Department of Education Guidance that permits these students to share their own educational records with community advocates, mentors and others of their choosing. SchoolHouse Connection submitted testimony supporting this bill, which is modeled on California legislation we championed successfully with the California Homeless Youth Project in 2013.
Does your state have a great law you would like to share? Or would you like help moving legislation in your state? Contact Patricia Julianelle at SchoolHouse Connection. We’ll be glad to share your models and help you make change in your state!