It’s nearly March and already, 2023 is shaping up to be a monumental year for legislators and advocates working to dismantle the barriers to sufficiency faced by youth experiencing homelessness across the United States. From access to medical care, shelter, and housing, to support for high school and college completion, SchoolHouse Connection is actively working alongside advocates in ten states to reform policies to support youth experiencing homelessness.
For more information on any of these bills, or legislation in your state, please contact Rodd Monts, Director of State Policy.
Michigan: Access to Medical Care and Services
In February, Michigan lawmakers are expected to consider a package of bills aimed at improving access to emergency shelter and medical care for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness. The bills would provide access to critical care and services for about 3,700 young people who are living without the support of parents or other adults, according to Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. These young people are on their own, primarily due to poverty, family instability, or family dysfunction — and they are outside of the child welfare system. All of these factors increase the likelihood that these youth will drop out of school, become crime or trafficking victims, end up in poor health, and face homelessness as adults.
HB4085-4087 is a bipartisan package that will be heard by the House Families, Children, and Seniors Committee. The bills have the support of SchoolHouse Connection, other youth homelessness advocacy groups, and homeless youth shelter providers across the state. Rep. Lori Stone, Rep. John Roth and Rep. Amos O’Neal are the lead sponsors.
New York: Higher Education Access and Support
In New York, the organizing efforts led in recent years by Young Invincibles, with the backing of a coalition of advocacy groups (including SchoolHouse Connection), is bearing fruit. The coalition has been pushing for greater support for homeless students trying to get into colleges and universities across the state, as well as helping them better navigate their way through to graduation.
S247 and S248, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Gounardes, and the Assembly version, A4029, sponsored by Asm. Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, were introduced this month. The bills would require designation of a homeless liaison on the state’s college and university campuses, and fund a pilot project to encourage schools to increase their capacity to help students experiencing homelessness enroll and better connect them to support needed to stay in school and graduate.
The bills are among a raft of legislation moving through statehouses across the U.S., and span the political spectrum. Lawmakers are looking to address many of the issues that make it difficult for students experiencing homelessness and other forms of adversity to succeed.
Hawaii: Supporting High School Graduation
In Hawaii, where just 66 percent of students experiencing homelessness complete high school, compared to 84.5 percent of students overall, HB658/SB603 would create a stable path to graduation for youth experiencing homelessness. In addition to these bills, Hawaii residents could see several other bills on youth homelessness issues taken up by the legislature this session.
Arizona, Massachusetts, and Oregon: Accessing Shelter and Housing
Bills to improve access to shelter and housing in various ways for youth experiencing homelessness have been introduced this year in Arizona, (SB1062), Massachusetts (SD185) and Oregon (HB2454/HB2456).
Arkansas, Kentucky and North Dakota: Access to Vital Documents
Legislation to remove the obstacles that youth experiencing homelessness encounter when trying to obtain state identification cards, birth certificates and other vital documents are moving in Kentucky (SB21) and in North Dakota, where SB237 has passed in the senate. A bipartisan bill, HB 1462, introduced this month in Arkansas would waive fees for college transcripts for unaccompanied homeless youth and foster care youth, along with state IDs, birth certificates, driver’s licenses and driver’s education.
Pennsylvania: Access to Vital Documents, Shelter, and Housing for Homeless College Students
Big things also could be in store for youth experiencing homelessness in Pennsylvania, where lawmakers are expected to introduce bills this year addressing vital documents, access to shelter and access to housing for college students experiencing homelessness.