Press Releases

Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) today introduced the Homeless Children and Youth Act, a bill to expand the definition of homelessness used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a change that would allow approximately 900,000 homeless children and families nationwide to access federal assistance programs. Reps. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

In its 2012 point-in-time survey, HUD counted 247,178 households that included at least one child as homeless, while data from the Department of Education show that 1.1 million children nationwide are homeless.

In California, 248,904 children experienced homelessness during the 2011-2012 school year. However, HUD’s point-in-time survey counted only 26,576 households with at least one child as homeless. In Ohio, 24,236 children experienced homelessness during the 2011-2012 school year. However, HUD’s point-in-time survey counted only 6,206 households with at least one child as homeless.

The expanded HUD definition would match the definition used by the Department of Education and other federal agencies.

“Too many homeless children and their families are overlooked by federal assistance programs,” said Senator Feinstein. “Despite the fact that these children and families are extremely vulnerable, the narrow definition of homelessness used by HUD makes these individuals ineligible for help. Our bill fixes this problem, allowing children and families to access the help they need.”

“This commonsense reform opens up access to federal assistance programs to thousands of homeless children and youth, including those who have aged out of the foster care system here the United States,” said Senator Portman. “Persistent poverty takes children who have nothing but their future ahead of them and drains away their hope and their faith. Washington has to ensure that it is playing the right role in helping these vulnerable children, and I believe this bipartisan bill is an example of just that.”

By expanding the definition of homelessness, the bill would make vulnerable children living in precarious situations eligible for federal homeless assistance programs. Specifically, children living in motels and doubled-up in households with acquaintances would be recognized as homeless. Children living in these situations are particularly vulnerable to predators, including traffickers, because they are hidden to social service providers and do not have case managers.

The bill would also allow local communities to make decisions and set priorities according to their own needs. Currently, communities and nonprofits seeking to prioritize services for homeless children and families have been less competitive when applying for HUD funding.

The Homeless Children and Youth Act is supported by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, National Network for Youth, First Focus Campaign for Children, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, National Center on Housing and Child Welfare and National Network to End Domestic Violence.