09.25.08

Senate Approves Leahy Bill To Help Runaway, Homeless Youth

The Senate late Thursday unanimously approved critical legislation to address problems facing runaway and homeless youths across the country.  The legislation, introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in May, will reauthorize key federal grant programs to provide states with grants to help the thousands of homeless young people nationwide.

 

The Runaway and Homeless Youth Protection Act (RHYA) was unanimously reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, but Republican objections have stalled its passage in the Senate.  The House of Representatives passed a companion measure in June.  The House-passed legislation is also pending in the Senate.

 

The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act was first passed by Congress in 1974, and Leahy has worked to reauthorize the act several times.  The authorization for the programs funded by the RHYA is slated to expire at the end of this month.  If enacted, the reauthorization will double the minimum grant allocation provided to small states, including Vermont, from $100,000 to $200,000.  The Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs coordinates grants under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act to Vermont organizations. 

 

The bill would provide funding for state and local programs to help provide transitional housing, street outreach and crisis intervention programs to address the needs of homeless and runaway youths.

“I am pleased that finally, after four months of needless delay due to a Republican objection, the Senate has acted to pass this important bill,” said Leahy.  “The needs in Vermont communities and across the country are real, and reauthorizing the law will allow these programs to expand their enormously important work.  The work done by the Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs and so many programs throughout the state depend on these important federal programs.”

The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act would:

·         Reauthorize and increase authorization levels for programs under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act

·         Double the RHYA Basic Center Program (BCP) allotments for small states from $100,000 to $200,000

·         Permit the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers grants under the RHYA, to redistribute unexpended funds from other BCP applicants for a one-year grant period, after which the amount would be returned to the BCP general pool for reallocation.

·         Require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop every five years a national estimate of the prevalence of homeless youth

·         Allow extensions in length of stay in basic centers from 15 days to up to 21 days, and in transitional living projects from 18 months to 21 months 

 

The Judiciary Committee examined the impact of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act during an April 29 hearing that included youth advocate and two-time Oscar Nominee Djimon Hounsou, as well as witnesses from national advocacy groups, and organizations in Vermont andPennsylvania that help homeless youth.  Mark Redmond and Michael Hutchins, both of the Burlington-based Spectrum Youth and Family Services, testified about RHYA and Spectrum’s efforts to assist homeless youth in Burlington, Vermont. 

 

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