Maybe you read in USA Today that the number of calls to the National Runaway Switchboard doubled in 2009. Maybe you’ve heard that running away from home puts young people at risk of violence, crime, prostitution, drugs and health problems. Maybe you’re an outreach worker who hears these stories every day.
If, for these or any other reasons, you’re concerned about youth homelessness, you should know about the Runaway Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). Along with the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) Act, RHYA is one of two federal programs aimed at helping homeless youth.
There are 3 main RHYA programs:
- The Basic Center Program, which helps meet immediate needs of runaway and homeless youth and their families including providing emergency shelter, reunification when possible, food, clothing, counseling, and access to health care;
- The Transitional Living Program, which provides funding long-term residential services to homeless youth ages 16 to 21 for up to 18 months;
- The Street Outreach Program, which funds outreach efforts designed to move youth off the streets.
Particularly in these tough economic times, these programs are crucial. Not only do they prevent victimization on the streets, but they are more cost-effective than foster care or a correctional facility. And still, current programs do not meet the need: in 2009, RHYA programs served less than 41,000 with shelter services and less than 4,000 received transitional housing. Over 7,500 youth were turned away and denied shelter and housing.
We at the Alliance are now looking to Congress to appropriate $165 million to these vital programs. With our youth in crisis, the $116 million in the president’s suggested FY2011 budget is simply not enough. The increase would assist about 18,000 additional homeless youth with shelter and housing services and provide for over 300,000 additional street outreach contacts and crisis intervention.
For more on ending youth homelessness, check out the Alliance’s Federal Youth Policy Agenda.