Getting Homeless Children Counted

I recently wrote about how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of “homeless” excludes large groups of homeless individuals and families from the annual homeless count.

A comment from Joni called attention to another excluded group–“couch surfers,” i.e., young people who are on their own and moving from one friend or relative’s home to another. Thanks again, Joni!

Congresswoman Judy Biggert (R-IL) has introduced a bill that would expand the definition of “homeless” to include not only “couch surfers,” but many other children and youth who are homeless but not counted now. It’s the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2009 (H.R. 29).

H.R. 29 would amend the current general definition of “homeless individual” in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to include children and youth who are verified as homeless by administrators of any one of four federally-funded programs.

Basically, children would still count as homeless if they were in emergency shelters, transitional housing or places not meant from human habitation, e.g., cars, abandoned buildings, bus or train stations.

But they would also count if they were:

  • Sharing the housing of someone else because they’d lost their home
  • Living in a motel, hotel, trailer park or camping ground “due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations”
  • On their own, in any of these situations, because they’d run away from home or been thrown out
  • Abandoned in a hospital
  • Awaiting foster care placement

This worthy bill currently has four co-sponsors. It will need a lot more to get on the agendas of the committees it’s been referred to, let alone a vote on the House floor.

HEAR US has launched a grassroots campaign to gain co-sponsors. Its blog has a downloadable, attention-grabbing form we can fax to our Representatives.

We can also call or send them an e-mail. Contact information (both phone and fax numbers) and e-mail forms are on their websites. Sites can be easily accessed from the home page of the House site.


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