The Virginia legislature is on the verge of providing critically needed access to shelter and related services for thousands of youth experiencing homelessness who have no parents or guardians in their lives to turn to for help.
The state Senate will soon consider HB717, a bill designed to provide unaccompanied homeless youth under the age of 18 the right to consent to their own housing, including emergency shelter, and related services.
These youth have no parental support to meet their most basic needs, including shelter, health care, and food. Most commonly, they are fleeing severe family dysfunction, exacerbated by poverty, and physical and sexual abuse. There are at least 2,700 of these unaccompanied homeless youth in Virginia – that we know about – and without the consent of parents or guardians, accessing many basic services that they need to survive is virtually impossible.
HB717 is sponsored by Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax). The bill was developed with input from a coalition of Virginia educators, service providers, youth and adults with direct experience relative to unaccompanied homelessness as minors, and advocates, like Voices for Virginia’s Children, Advocates for Richmond Youth, Loisann’s Hope House and Second Story. HB717:
- Allows youth under the age of 18 who have been determined to be unaccompanied homeless youth to obtain housing and supportive services.
- Establishes guidelines for service providers and calls for the Board of Social Services to adopt regulations for implementation.
- Creates a work group led by the Department of Social Services that includes a public school homeless liaison, providers of housing and supportive services, and current or former unaccompanied homeless youth, among others. The work group is charged not only with developing recommendations to the Board on housing and related services, but also with creating guidelines for unaccompanied homeless youth to consent to their own medical care and treatment.
Current status of HB717
HB717 passed the House unanimously and must now get through the Senate. It will next be taken up by the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.
For more information, please contact Rodd Monts, SHC’s Director of State Policy.
Take Action Now!
Virginians, you can help by asking your senator to support the legislation. Find your senator’s contact information and email or call their office to urge them to pass HB717 and provide the most vulnerable of our vulnerable youth the access to shelter and support they need to survive.