Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) Wednesday introduced S.2646, the Leahy-Collins Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which expires September 30, 2014. The reauthorization recognizes the needs of all youth, including gay and transgender youth experiencing homelessness. While gay and transgender youth comprise only 5-7 percent of America’s total youth population, they comprise up to 40 percent of all homeless youth in America.
“Supporting our youth when they are most in need, and helping to get them back on their feet benefits us all,” Leahy said. “Homeless children are less likely to finish school, more likely to enter our juvenile justice system, and are ill-equipped to find a job. The services authorized by this bill are designed to intervene early and encourage the development of successful, productive young adults.”
RHYA is the only federal law that provides vital services to homeless youth, including street outreach, basic shelter and transitional living programs. A significant factor causing youth homelessness is family rejection, which is often the reason for homelessness among LGBT youth. Among the improvements made to RHYA reauthorization are improved support systems for family reunification and intervention.
“Despite the recent decline we have seen in chronic homelessness, there are still more than 1.6 million homeless teens in the United States,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins. “As the Ranking Member of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, I have made it my goal to address chronic homelessness. We must make sure our nation’s homeless youth have the same opportunity to succeed as other youth. The programs reauthorized by this bill are critical in helping homeless youth stay off the street and find stable, sustainable housing. I look forward to working with Senator Leahy to quickly move this bill through the Senate and House so that the President can sign it into law.”
“I applaud Senator Leahy and Senator Collins for introducing the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act,” said Cyndi Lauper, Co-Founder of the True Colors Fund. “I am especially grateful that this bipartisan bill includes protections for gay and transgender youth experiencing homelessness. No young person should ever be homeless, let alone because they are gay or transgender, but when they are, we need to ensure that they have access to safe and supportive services.”
The True Colors Fund strongly supports this Act, which strengthens critical services in the fight against youth homelessness and thanks Senators Leahy and Collins for their leadership on this reauthorization.