From coast to coast, the first few months of 2023 were full of state legislative activity related to youth homelessness. Lawmakers in a number of state capitols already have passed bills improving access to the critical support and resources that youth and young adults experiencing homelessness need for better life outcomes. In other states, legislation was introduced and is moving forward. Below is a summary of state policy highlights to date in the second quarter of 2023. Taken together with state legislative activity in the first quarter of 2023, at least 15 states are moving bills forward on youth homelessness.
For more information on any of the legislation referenced here, or to share policy reform efforts in your state, please contact Rodd Monts, Director of State Policy.
Arkansas, Kentucky, North Dakota: Vital Documents
In April, Arkansas lawmakers passed the expansive, bipartisan HB 1462 that will waive fees for college transcripts for unaccompanied homeless youth and foster care youth, along with fees for state IDs, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and driver’s education.
The Kentucky legislature passed HB 21, which will allow minors over 16 who are experiencing homelessness to get ID cards without a signature from a parent or guardian, which is critical for unaccompanied youth. Lawmakers recognized the challenges those who lack a fixed address have in obtaining a driver’s license or state ID. The new law addresses that barrier and also allows state transportation officials to enter into billing arrangements with social service agencies so they can pay client’s fees directly. The North Dakota legislature passed SB 2379 to permit agencies that serve young people experiencing homelessness to help unaccompanied youth get their birth certificate.
Oregon: Access to Housing, Transportation and Related Resources
Legislators in Oregon approved a large appropriations bill that continues funding for legislation to help children K-12 and their families who are at risk of becoming homeless better access shelter, care and support, and provide grants for host home projects for youth experiencing homelessness.
SHC is supporting another Oregon bill that lawmakers are still considering, SB 658, which would help address the barriers that students experiencing homelessness often face getting to school consistently and on time (including transportation), and having the support and resources they need to succeed once there.
Pennsylvania: Driver’s Licenses, Priority College Housing, Minor Consent
SHC will be in Pennsylvania in May working with our allies to support multiple bills that have been introduced to fight youth homelessness. HB 127 would waive fees for youth experiencing homelessness for a driver’s license or state ID. HB 729 would give youth experiencing homelessness priority status when it comes to housing on college and university campuses. HB 730 would allow minors to consent to their own housing, medical care and into other contracts.
Maine: Housing Voucher and Site-Based Services
The Maine legislature is considering multiple bills that could substantially improve access to housing and supportive services for youth experiencing homelessness and their families. LD 1422 would establish a housing voucher program and provide site-based services for students experiencing homelessness in elementary school and secondary school. Similarly, LD 1609 would make funds available directly to school leaders and homeless liaisons to meet critical needs of students and their families, helping to prevent evictions and homelessness. Liaisons would have access to funding to quickly help stabilize families without them having to navigate housing and supportive systems that typically prove to be cumbersome and frustrating.
New York: Higher Education Liaisons, Support for Enrollment, Attendance and Access to Vital Services
SHC has been actively supporting the organizing of our allies in New York to advance multiple bills in the state legislature that would help youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. S4247 would assist State University of New York and City University of New York students experiencing homelessness by designating liaison officers on campuses and creating systems to improve access to critical services and resources. S4248 proposes a pilot program to fund solutions that increase enrollment, attendance, and success in college for students experiencing homelessness. Members of the Assembly introduced A4027, which combines the liaison and pilot proposals in the Senate into one bill.
Nevada: Higher Education Liaisons and Fee Waivers
Lawmakers in Nevada are considering AB 217, which would provide much-needed support for youth experiencing homelessness — including unaccompanied youth — in higher education by requiring the designation of liaisons on college campuses, and waiving registration and laboratory fees.
California: Scholarships for Foster Youth, Guaranteed Income, Access to Intercessions
In California, SHC submitted support for foster youth scholarship bills, a guaranteed income bill, and access to intercession bill. SB 307 would provide the Middle Class Scholarship Program (MCSP) to community college students who are current or former foster youth pursuing transfer to a 4-year postsecondary educational institution or program. Under SB 333, students graduating from high school while experiencing homelessness would be eligible for $1,000 a month between April and August of their senior year. The California Success, Opportunity, and Academic Resilience (SOAR) Guaranteed Income Program aims to cover the gap between completion of grade 12 and a student’s postsecondary opportunity.
Texas: Higher Education Liaisons, Definition of Homelessness
Activity in the Texas legislature to address youth homelessness has also been quite brisk this session. Two proposed measures would provide additional support for college students experiencing homelessness. SB 1073 would designate homeless liaisons on college campuses to assist students with navigating school and connecting to needed resources, while HB 1142 would provide students experiencing homelessness with priority access to on-campus housing solutions.
SB 1804 would change the definition of homelessness in Texas to match the federal definition in the education subtitle of the McKinney-Vento Act. This change would help state agencies redesign program guidelines that best meet the needs of all people who are homeless, especially families with children.
Oklahoma: Identifying Students Experiencing Homelessness
The Oklahoma legislature approved HB 1029 this month, and the bill has been signed into law. The bill calls for the State Department of Education in conjunction with the Office of Planning and Coordination for Services to Children and Youth Steering Committee to adopt a standard form to be used by all school districts to identify students who are homeless, beginning with the 2024-2025 school year. It also requires school districts to report the results to the Department of Education each year, and to compile a report on homeless students.
Washington State: K12 Funding for Homeless Students, Higher Education Student Supports, Access to Child Care
The Washington state legislature increased funding for the Homeless Student Stability Program to $9 million, an increase of over $4 million. The HSSP program is a statewide grant program that encourages partnerships between education and housing systems, and supplements the federal McKinney-Vento funds to support the identification, attendance, and school success of children and youth experiencing homelessness. HSSP helps school districts meet immediate housing needs, as well as other supports.
The WA legislature also passed multiple bills to improve support for students experiencing homelessness and foster care youth in higher education. HB 5225 takes effect this summer and will expand access to state subsidies to cover childcare for parents experiencing homelessness. HB 5702 makes the Supporting Students Experiencing Homelessness pilot project a permanent program for all public colleges and universities. The program provides grants to institutions for staffing and direct basic needs support to those students. Lawmakers also passed HB 1559, which funds strategic planning and a basic needs assessment for colleges and universities, benefits navigators in each public and tribal institution, and other supports.
Finally, HB 5225 takes effect this summer and will expand access to state child care subsidies for parents experiencing homelessness by codifying the extension of the grace period for documentation from four months to twelve months.
Illinois: Better Identifying and Supporting Students
In an effort to ensure that more public school personnel are sufficiently equipped to serve children and youth experiencing homelessness in their communities, the Illinois legislature has moved HB 3116 to the senate. The bill would require every school board to conduct in-service training on homelessness for all school staff, and require districts to work with community-based organizations that work with youth experiencing homelessness to develop and provide the training.