This week the Homeless Youth Act began its legislative journey. The House Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy Committee approved the bill (HF698/SF0565). It goes next to the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.
We were excited to be part of a spirited pre-hearing press conference with other advocacy groups such as Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, Wilder Foundation, YouthLink and Youth Moving Forward, as well as a bipartisan group of legislators including the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Laurie Halvorson of Eagan and Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, and three previously homeless youth (pictured, above). Together we called for $8 million to fund the Homeless Youth Act.
For the occasion we created a large poster with a stunning visual: a photo of 200 people gathered at our Acting on Faith advocacy kickoff in January, plus all the messages they wrote to lawmakers that night. It made a snazzy backdrop as legislators stepped to the podium to explain why the Homeless Youth Act is needed and why they are sponsoring or have signed on to the bill.
Rep. Halvorson believes homeless youth need solutions that are stable and long-term in order to help them live a prosperous life.
"They might be fleeing a situation at home that's dangerous. They might be experiencing crisis in their lives,” Halverson said.
Tim Marx, the CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said it’s important to invest in youth now and not later when they are adults. "They're on the streets, they run into predators. They often end up in emergency systems, jails. And they don't become workers and productive citizens of the community."
Sen. Greg Clausen, an Apple Valley High School principal, noted that youth homelessness is not only an urban issue. Passing the Homeless Youth Act with $8 million could impact youth all across the state.
The teens had been invited to answer questions from their experience – but they had pointed questions of their own during Q&A time: “When will this get done?” asked one. “Will this help organizations like the one that helped me?” asked another.
Based on the last official count, there are 2,500 homeless youth on any given night in Minnesota. Current funding for the HYA, originally passed in 2007, stands at a meager 13 cents per youth per night. Advocates are asking for $8 million to fund services including shelter, housing, counseling and support to finish school and find employment.
Today we have more than 700 signatures on our petition to fund the Homeless Youth Act. Will you help us get to 1,000?That will show our legislators just how serious we are about investing in our youth. It takes two minutes to sign our online petition.
Thank you, 2,500 times over.
-Shannon Evans, Public Policy Intern