Policy and Advocacy Initiatives
For information on current policy issues at the State and Federal levels, 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
Larkin Street’s advocacy activities take a variety of forms:
Coalition Involvement – Participation on boards, committees, and taskforces
- Homeless Youth Capacity Building Project: A partnership between the John Burton Foundation and the California Coalition for Youth, the Project seeks to reduce homelessness among youth ages 16 to 24 in California by organizing homeless youth providers for advocacy and expanding organizational capacity of providers serving homeless youth. www.cahomelessyouth.org
- U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH): Provided input on the needs and effective strategies to prevent and end homelessness among youth to assist in the development of the Federal Strategic Plan. www.ich.gov
- National Council on Youth Policy: Policy arm of the National Network for Youth the primary national membership organization for runaway and homeless youth providers. www.nn4youth.org
- San Francisco TAY (Transitional Age Youth) Provider Network: A member 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. www.taysf.org
At the Federal Level
Reauthorization of the Federal Runaway and Homeless Youth Act
The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) is the only dedicated federal source of funding for youth homelessness. The programs 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. 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. The 2013 reauthorization should include funding for this study as the lack of data impedes our ability to most appropriately allocate resources to this vulnerable population.
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.
Homeless Assistance Programs funded through HUD assist the most vulnerable individuals and families in accessing housing and supportive services that move them toward self-sufficiency. The Budget Control Act of 2011 and sequestration have had a significant negative impact on these programs, which for many years had already been under-funded. In California alone, the estimated cuts due to sequestration this year is close to $46.5 million; this is on top of over $712 million in cuts since 2010. The Budget Control Act exempted numerous programs on the basis that they serve the extremely low-income; however, programs focused on homelessness and affordable housing, which serve the lowest income individuals, were not exempted. Reversal of funding cuts caused by sequestration would protect services that are essential in preventing and eliminating homelessness.
At the State Level
AB 346 – Licensure of Emergency Youth Shelter Facilities
Emergency Youth Shelter Facilities provide voluntary, temporary shelter for runaway and homeless youth. There is no California law that states youth shelters must be licensed, which has resulted in inconsistent application of shelter licensure across the state. Federal law requires that in order to receive Basic Center Program funding for youth shelters through the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, programs must be in compliance with state and local licensing requirements. The ambiguity of California licensure makes it difficult for shelters to meet this requirement, which will result in their disqualification from participation in the program and a loss of federal funding. AB 346 provides a solution by creating a sub-category of licensure for Emergency Youth Shelter Facilities through the California Department of Social Services that would be appropriate for the setting and services provided.
SB 391 – California Homes and Jobs Act of 2013
The lack of affordable housing in California impacts the incidence of youth homelessness. Transition age youth have been hard hit by the recession, which has decreased employment opportunities and increased housing instability in high-rent markets. The gap between wages earned and fair market rents continues to grow as salaries fail to keep pace with increasing housing costs. This legislation would increase the amount of affordable housing available across California. The legislation creates a state housing trust fund for a public-private partnership that would build an estimated 10,000 safe and affordable units of housing each year. The bill would also create 29,000 jobs annually, primarily in the struggling construction sector.
AB 309 – CalFresh: Homeless Youth
Every day, homeless youth struggle to meet their most basic needs, including finding food. This legislation removes barriers to homeless youth’s access to food assistance (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, known in California as CalFresh). It does so by clarifying that there is no minimum age to receive CalFresh benefits, and that unaccompanied youth are automatically eligible for expedited services.
AB 998 – Interagency Council on Homelessness
California is one of the few states that does not have an interagency council, despite the fact that the state has the largest homeless population in the nation. This legislation would create the California Interagency Council on Homelessness and requires various state agencies to meet quarterly to coordinate efforts on homelessness.
AB 1068 – Pupils: Transitioning Youth for Success Program
This bill would allow homeless youth age 15 years or older to access their own school records if the individual is living on his or her own, apart from his or her parent or guardian. Most unaccompanied homeless youth have fled dysfunctional and/or abusive families, yet a large number are still continuing to attend school. This bill empowers youth to continue to invest in their futures by allowing them to access and share important information so that they receive the educational support that they need.
For additional information regarding advocacy for runaway and homeless youth please see our Resource Library.