At a June 17 Congressional briefing “Voices of Youth,” homeless or formerly homeless youth discussed their experiences overcoming the challenges presented by homelessness. The briefing was sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and the Congressional Homelessness Caucus (see Memo, 6/6)
Students explained that a variety of factors contributed to their homelessness, including parental abuse, parental drug addiction or alcoholism, the death of a parent, abandonment by a parent, or teen pregnancy. The array of responses all had the similar theme of an absent parental figure.
Primary and secondary school were challenging but served as an escape from greater struggles. School would create purpose in homeless students’ lives. School was a safe haven that guaranteed breakfast and lunch. Students recommended that teachers ask about students’ wellbeing instead of embarrassing or bullying them when they fall asleep in class, have not done assignments, or do not have school supplies.
The students discussed various barriers to higher education they encountered. To begin with, obtaining financial aid to attend college is often difficult because it is not easy to prove homelessness. Students sometimes have difficulty with childcare for their younger siblings. Affordable housing is crucial to establishing stability and a healthy lifestyle. “It is impossible to learn when you are constantly worrying about being evicted (from your dorm) because you cannot afford the cost of living at school,” said panelist Elaine from Richmond, VA.
On June 25, the Congressional Homelessness Caucus, in conjunction with the Office of Representative John Conyers (D-MI), will hold a briefing on violence against people experiencing homelessness. The briefing will be at 2pm in room 2237 of the Rayburn House office building.
Scheduled speakers are actress Susan Sarandon, David Pirtle, a violence survivor speaking on behalf of the National Coalition for the Homeless, and Tom Morgan, director of the documentary, Storied Streets. Among other topics, speakers will discuss the need for crimes against homeless people to be included among crime data collected by the Attorney General.