Policy and Advocacy Initiatives
For information on current policy issues and calls to action at the Federal, State, and Local level, skip to Legislative Action.
Advocacy is the way in which Larkin Street helps to ensure that at-risk and homeless youth have access to resources and the greatest opportunity to improve their lives. Advocacy works to secure and expand funding for needed services, as well as inform and influence development of sound policy. Given the broad range of direct services and the variety of programs at Larkin Street, the agency is in a unique position to impact systemic change by sharing with policy makers their knowledge about programs and services that work. We believe it is our responsibility to take a leadership role in addressing structural inequalities and ensuring that the most effective social and public policies are instituted. This is accomplished through regular participation in advocacy at a variety of levels:
- Community education to raise awareness of issues impacting runaway and homeless youth
- Participation in local, statewide, and national policy-setting workgroups or boards to inform policy creation and funding allocations
- Legislative advocacy to inform elected officials about the potential impact of legislation on runaway and homeless youth
Update: On July 22, President Obama joined with members of Congress from both parties to sign WIOA into law
Reauthorization of WIA, the main federal source of funding for a comprehensive array of workforce development programs is a decade overdue. WIA provides critical funding for youth workforce development programs including summer jobs, skills training, counseling, Jobs Corps and YouthBuild. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is promising legislation recently introduced by members of both parties with support in both houses to reauthorize WIA and make several changes to the legislation with a focus on reconnecting youth to education. The bill pledges to concentrate services on disconnected youth connecting them to career pathways, dropout recovery and completion of post-secondary credentials. Additionally the bill calls for the US Secretary of Education and Secretary of Labor to study disconnected youth including their characteristics, ways in which they could have greater opportunities in education and employment, and what resources are available to support them becoming economically self-sufficient.
The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) is the only dedicated federal source of funding for youth homelessness. The services funded through RHYA include outreach, family reunification, counseling, shelter, and transitional housing. While the programs funded through this Act have demonstrated success, they are limited in scope and capacity. Recommendations for reauthorization include increased funding to better provide communities with the resources needed to move youth off the streets and into housing. This is necessary in order to achieve the goal of eliminating youth homelessness by 2020, as set forth in the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. Reauthorization now a year overdue, however there is hope that legislation will be introduced this year.
Funding for RHYA programs has remained flat at approximately $115 million for the past five years. Additionally, in the 2008 reauthorization, there was a requirement for a national study on the incidence and prevalence of youth homelessness, which has not been conducted due to lack of funds. Congress should approve $127 million as well as $3 million for the prevalence study to help communities better address and end youth homelessness.
In California by the close of the decade over two-thirds of job opportunities will require some form of post-secondary education, yet far too many homeless and foster youth encounter major barriers to access and successful completion of higher education. Those obstacles to graduation often include a lack of the basics like food and shelter during semester breaks, lack of parental support, and difficulties navigating the financial aid process. HEASHFY makes improvements to college access programs, financial aid, and retention services to ensure vulnerable students have the resources and support needed to attend and complete their education. Senator Harkin (D-IA) recently introduced a proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The effort known as the “Higher Education Affordability Act” contains provisions to support homeless youth including much of the HEASHFY.
Action Update: Legislation was introduced by Senators Murray, Baldwin, and Landrieu in November sign on to this petition to help move the legislation forward.
National Housing Trust Fund
Homelessness is caused at the most basic level by the inability of individuals to afford a place to live. Any strategy to eliminate homelessness must address the dearth of affordable housing across the country. The National Housing Trust Fund was established in 2008 to provide an ongoing, dedicated, and sufficient source of revenue for low-income housing. Identification of a funding stream for the Fund would significantly increase the affordable housing stock in America and positively impact the homelessness rate. H.R. 1213 the Common Sense Housing Investment Act of 2013, introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) would generate $194 buillion over 10 years to be invested in affordable housing and housing assistance.
Many young people experiencing homelessness rely on access to government programs and social services to obtain housing, employment, nutrition assistance and other public benefits programs. Most federal and state programs providing these services require identity verification. However, young people experiencing homelessness often to do not have forms of identification or the money to obtain those documents. Without an ID card, youth are unable to access the programs most critical to getting them off of the streets. AB 1733 allows a person experiencing homelessness to have their fee waived when attempting to obtain a birth certificate or identification card, by submitting an affidavit to prove homelessness and financial need along with their application. This process will help to improve homeless youth’s access to services that get them off of the streets.
In California on any given day, there are an estimated 15,000 unaccompanied homeless young people. Large numbers of these young people leave their homes fleeing child abuse, domestic violence, neglect and/or parental mental health and substance abuse issues. However, homeless youth currently face gaps in access and services when attempting to enter the child welfare system. To eliminate the barriers AB 2001 clarifies the law to ensure that homeless unaccompanied youth accessing youth shelters, can fall within the jurisdiction of the child welfare services in the event that they have been abused or neglected. Additionally the law establishes a workgroup to identify additional strategies and solutions to be delivered to the State Assembly in 2016.
More Information: See remarks from ED Sherilyn Adams in the legislation’s press release
Unemployment among California’s youth ages 16-24 stands at a staggering rate of 20.2 percent, which is the fourth highest in the nation and greater than double California’s overall rate of 8.3 percent. Homeless youth make up a large part of the 850,000 California youth who are neither in school or working. However, despite the escalating crisis, over the past decade, important government funding for work-based learning opportunity have been repeatedly cut. AB 2615 provides $25 million to establish a Work-Based Learning Fund to provide linked education and training for disconnected youth across the state, ensuring access to the next generation of job opportunities.
In 1991, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to guarantee a portion of its budget when voters passed the Children’s Amendment. The fund currently aids 250 programs that provide services such as child care, after-school programs, job training, and summer employment to 47,000 San Francisco children up to the age of 17. However, since 1991 the needs of San Francisco’s children and youth have grown. The poverty rate among children living in the city has risen 14.5 percent since 2008, with nearly 1 in 6 children between the ages of 12 and 17 living in poverty in San Francisco. In 23 years since the Fund first launched, the prospects for too many Transition-Age Youth (TAY) between the ages of 18-24 have declined, with young people facing unprecedented levels of poverty and unemployment. In San Francisco alone, there are 8,000 TAY who are disconnected from education and the workforce, and in danger of slipping through the cracks into homelessness.
The Amendment takes on 3 important reforms:
- Inclusion of youth up to 24
- An increase for the fund from .03 to .04 of every $100 of property tax revenue
- A longer extension of the Fund so that it will remain in place at least 25 years.
Following upcoming approval by the Board of Supervisors, the Amendment will on the ballot in the November election. For more information see our recent blog post: OPENING THE DOOR TO YOUTH UP TO 24
Larkin Street’s advocacy activities take a variety of forms:
Coalition Involvement – Participation on boards, committees, and taskforces
- National Network for Youth Policy Advisory Committee: Policy arm of the National Network for Youth the primary national membership organization for runaway and homeless youth providers.
- San Francisco TAY (Transitional Age Youth) Provider Network: Amember organization of community-based agencies who work to ensure there is a comprehensive and coordinated service system for disconnected 16-24 year olds in San Francisco.
For additional information regarding advocacy for runaway and homeless youth please see our Resource Library.