Unaccompanied homeless young people in crisis
The Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committee on Children and Families heard public testimony Tuesday on “An Act Providing Housing and Support Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth” (HB 135) at the Massachusetts State House
MassEquality, along with the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless and other advocates, are urged lawmakers to pass the bill, which would direct the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services to enter into contracts with organizations and agencies to provide housing and support services for all unaccompanied homeless youth.
“Up to 40 percent of unaccompanied homeless youth are LGBTQ-identified and they need services to get back on their feet and build a strong foundation for their futures. Most are homeless because they have been rejected by their families, or have run away due to abuse related to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” said Kara Suffredini, Executive Director of MassEquality. “The rejection these LGBTQ youth experience doesn’t end at the door of their family home. There are few homeless shelters in Massachusetts set up to properly care for young people. Teens and young adults are forced to be in adult shelters which don’t have the appropriate services for young adults. Additionally, they can be particularly unsafe for LGBTQ young people who experience victimization based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”
A recent report from the state’s Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth recommends that the state conduct an audit of services, including those geared toward LGBTQ youth; training for those who work with homeless youth on current law and their responsibilities, as well as training in cultural competency among all populations impacted by homelessness and housing insecurity; and greater coordination of resources among community-based organizations and state agencies who work with unaccompanied homeless youth. The recently passed FY14 state budget included some funding for a statewide count of unaccompanied homeless youth and for a pilot program designed to serve the unaccompanied homeless youth population.
MassEquality Deputy Director Carly Burton chairs the Commission’s Working Group on Services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and/or Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth. “Passage of this law would be an important step forward in expanding services available to unaccompanied homeless youth,” Burton said. “The experience of unaccompanied homeless young people in Massachusetts is a crisis requiring immediate attention.”