The Senate Committee on the Judiciary voted out The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA), S. 2646, on September 18. The bill, cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) would reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) and add additional provisions. Authorization for RHYA expired on September 30, 2013.
Under RHYTPA, communities awarded grants through the Basic Center Program (BCP) would be required to increase the length of stay for temporary housing from 21 to 30 days, and extend their services to include the families of affected youth. BCP programs would also be required to coordinate with outreach programs that build relationships with affected youth and refer them to service providers. In addition, BCP programs would be required to help youth complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Programs would also have to maintain records of the demographic characteristics of the youth they serve.
Communities awarded grants through the Transitional Living Program (TLP) would have to provide educational assistance, job training, and health care; set up a referral system for mental health care; and track and report the demographics of the youth they serve.
Current law allows nonprofit private agencies to receive grants to provide services to runaway and homeless youth who have suffered, or are at risk of suffering, sexual abuse, violence, trafficking, or exploitation. The proposed bill would allow public agencies also to receive grants for sexual abuse prevention.
Under RHYTPA, grantees would continue to get training and technical assistance from the Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center (RHYTTAC). A national call center would also continue to take calls from affected youth and families, and facilitate connections with service providers.
The RHYTPA bill would authorize funds for a national study to determine the prevalence and characteristics of runaway and homeless youth in order to tailor service programs to fit the need. State and local governments and private groups would be eligible for grants to conduct any projects that could increase knowledge and improve services for runaway and homeless youth. In addition, RHYTPA would include an initiative to develop performance standards with the collaboration of grantees and experts in order to better evaluate the effectiveness of programs serving runaway and homeless youth.
As proposed, RHYTPA would set funding levels at $140 million per fiscal year for general programs, $25 million per year for the sexual abuse prevention program, and $2 million per fiscal year for the national study.
“This year marks the 40th anniversary of this Act (see Memo, 5/30), but despite four decades of work on this issue, there are still approximately 1.6 million homeless teens in the United States, and nearly 39 percent of the nation’s homeless population is under the age of 18,” Senator Leahy said in a statement. “It is critical we provide these vulnerable kids with the resources and support they need.”
“As the Ranking Member of the Housing Appropriations Subcommittee, I have made it my goal to address chronic homelessness,” Senator Collins is quoted as saying in a statement from the National Network for Youth. “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 full Senate and House so that the President can sign it into law.”
The National Network for Youth led the advocacy to reauthorize and improve RHYTPA. “I have personally visited many Runaway and Homeless Youth Act funded programs and spent time with the young people they serve. There is no question that these programs are vital to saving lives and helping young people exit danger and homelessness and transition successfully to adulthood,” said Darla Bardine, Executive Director of the National Network for Youth.
Senator Leahy’s statement is at http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/09-18-14LeahyStatement.pdf
The National Network for Youth’s statement is at http://www.nn4youth.org/news/press-releases/2014/09/18/runaway-and-homeless-youth-and-trafficking-prevention-act-passes-thro