Every child deserves a safe and stable place to call home. Yet, too many young people are living day-to-day in motels or doubled-up in the homes of family, friends, or strangers.
This lack of stable housing for our kids cannot be overlooked, even as millions are “invisibly homeless.” While they may not be living on the streets, homelessness in any form hinders their ability to succeed in school, to build a strong future, and to live healthy lives.
To combat this problem, it’s going to take a response at all levels: local, state, and federal.
Thankfully, organizations like Huckleberry House right here in Ohio’s 15th Congressional District are working to reach those teenagers lacking a stable home and on the verge of crisis.
Earlier this year, I toured the Huckleberry House with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson and Governor Mike DeWine to see firsthand how they are working day-in and day-out to care for the youth in our communities. At the tour, HUD announced that Ohio would be receiving $107 million in grants through HUD’s Continuum of Care program.
Continuum of Care commits resources to individuals, families, and organizations nationwide who are dedicated to combatting homelessness. Our neighborhood directly benefits from this program; the Huckleberry House was awarded $230,000.
That’s why, during the recent appropriation process, I supported funding for the Continuum of Care Program to ensure that individuals who receive the program’s assistance can continue to work towards self-sufficiency. I’ve seen first-hand the good that organizations like Huckleberry House, and others nationwide, do when it comes to supporting America’s youth.
As the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance, one of my top priorities is to address the increasing number of homeless youth.
The number of identified, enrolled students nationwide experiencing homelessness during the past three years increased from 1,307,656 students in 2016, to 1,508,265 students in 2018.
Our children are our nation’s most valuable asset, and we cannot allow them to fall victim to homelessness.
Unfortunately, kids who are “couch-surfing”, living in unsheltered places, abandoned buildings, or campgrounds are often excluded under the current definition of homelessness, making it difficult for them to access the services they desperately need.
I introduced the Homeless Children and Youth Act to change that. It’s a step forward to make sure all young people have a safe place to call home.
The first step of addressing any problem is to understand the scope of the problem, and it is imperative we identify just how many children are suffering. This legislation would align the definition of “homelessness” that HUD uses with the definition that other federal educational and social services programs use to give a complete, accurate picture of the homeless youth population, including those in untenable situations.
This will help make sure organizations like Huckleberry House can take the appropriate steps to help these kids.
It’s important not only to support these children throughout their adolescence, but to guide them through their transition into adulthood.
The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, which I cosponsored, is a powerful tool to remove barriers that might be standing in the way of their successful transition. Nationwide, there are approximately 20,000 youth every year aging out of foster care who are vulnerable to becoming homeless.
This bill would help give those young adults a stable transition to adulthood, so that they can focus on building a future rather than finding housing for the night. Specifically, this would provide at-risk foster youth with access to 3-year housing vouchers.
With this assistance, these young adults will have the ability to change the trajectory of their lives. I’m pleased my colleagues came together and passed this bill out of the House, and it now waits in the Senate for a vote.
I am hopeful that the coalition of people at the local, state, and federal level will continue championing ways to bring about real change.
If you’d like to learn more about the Homeless Children and Youth Act, the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, or other efforts to end youth homelessness, please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-2015, my Hilliard office at (614) 771-4968, my Lancaster office at (740) 654-2654, or my Wilmington office at (937) 283-7049.
U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) represents the state’s 15th Congressional District.