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August 21, 2018

Homeless Children

The House Financial Services Committee voted 39-18 on July 24 to approve legislation that would, among other things, harmonize eligibility for federal homelessness programs to ensure that children and youth experiencing homelessness are able to access federally supported stable housing. H.R. 1511, the Homeless Children and Youth Act, would amend the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to align the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) definition of homelessness with that of other agencies and allow caseworkers to determine on a case-by-case basis whether a child who is considered homeless for another federal program may also be eligible for HUD assistance. HUD’s definition of homelessness for eligibility for its programs includes people living in shelters, transitional housing, on the streets, or in other outdoor locations. The more expansive Department of Education (ED) definition includes children and youth who lack a fixed, regular and adequate night-time residence. This includes those living in shelters, transitional housing, cars, campgrounds, motels, or temporarily sharing the housing of others. In addition to determining eligibility for ED programs, the department’s definition is used by the Head Start program, federally funded child care programs, child nutrition programs, and numerous other federal family and youth programs. In a June 8 letter to the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, then ABA President Hilarie Bass applauded Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) for introducing H.R. 1511. “At a time when an estimated 4.2 million American youth experience homelessness each year, it confounds common sense that all but one federal homeless program may consider a child to be eligible for assistance, yet leave that child exposed to dangerous living conditions because he or she is not somehow homeless enough,” Bass wrote.