Lawmakers put spotlight on youth homelessness
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House lawmakers weighed efforts to combat youth homelessness and pushed for more federal funding to address the issue at a hearing on Tuesday before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services.

The hearing, which focused on the difficulties faced by homeless youth and those in their communities working to address their needs, highlighted the bipartisan support for tackling those challenges.

"Our deeper understanding about the causes and factors surrounding youth homelessness demand an updated approach to handling this public health issue," said subcommittee Chairwoman Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciPelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention Scientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide MORE (D-Ore.) to open the hearing.


“Our children are this country’s most valuable asset, they are also the most vulnerable in our society," said committee ranking member James ComerJames (Jamie) R. ComerThe biggest political upsets of the decade New hemp trade group presses lawmakers on immigration reform, regs Kentucky Senate president: Bevin should concede if recanvass confirms results MORE (R-Ky.) in his opening statement. "As lawmakers we must help protect American youth from homelessness and the danger it presents."

The committee heard from witnesses who urged lawmakers to offer more financial resources.

Among those testifying was David Baker, a support specialist for YMCA Youth and Family Services, who grew up in a family where multiple generations experienced homeless. As a teen, Baker ran away to live on the streets, believing it was preferable to the life offered in traditional homeless shelters. While in college, Baker lived out of his car before receiving help through federally funded youth homelessness programs.

“Through programs funded by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act I was given the foundation to build a life of prosperity," Baker told lawmakers. "I was given a chance to change my family history forever. Today, I ask you to please make that a possibility for every youth, because they deserve it.”

The law, passed in 1974, established federal programs to address the issue, including the creation of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program (RHYP), which includes a host of measures from safety hotlines and educational help to short-term and longer-term housing.

The subcommittee also heard from Dr. Melinda Giovengo, CEO of YouthCare, a program that provides shelters and trauma counseling to homeless youth in the Seattle area.

Giovengo spoke to the importance of outreach and transitional living centers funded by the RHYP as the first line of prevention between homeless youth and trafficking, and called for greater financial support for these services.

“4.2 million young people in our country are experiencing homelessness. That number is staggering and unacceptable. Without targeted intervention it also represents a pipeline to chronic adult homelessness, yet life-saving services are woefully underfunded,” she said.

Democrats on the panel echoed Giovengo's calls for more funding for the programs that helped Baker.

“I’m looking at what federal funding is and I’m hearing the number $30 per homeless youth per year, and I’m embarrassed that I’m sitting here even having this discussion because it is nothing what the federal government is providing,” said Rep. Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade The Hill's Morning Report - Vulnerable Dems are backing Trump impeachment Vulnerable Democrats signal support for impeachment articles this week MORE (D-Wash).

Bonamici also highlighted the increased threat of homelessness for Latino, African American, LGBTQ and Native American young people.

Rep. Jahana HayesJahana HayesFBI visits congressional candidate Robert Hyde's home, business Ukraine launches criminal investigation into alleged threats against former US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch State GOP chairman asks candidate to drop out after Yovanovitch revelations MORE (D-Conn.) and Giovengo also raised concerns over the obstacles that youth experiencing homelessness face while attempting to complete their post-secondary education.

“I’ve worked so hard as an educator so many times to get kids through our high school system, get them enrolled in college, to get them on a campus,” said Hayes. "When the campuses are closed these kids are back in a situation and often can’t recover."

—Updated at 4:06 p.m.