Be An Advocate
Speak Up for Homeless Kids
Since 1972, Covenant House has been committed to protecting and safeguarding all children, especially those without a place to call home. And with more than 40 years of experience in working directly with this population, Covenant House is ideally suited to champion the interests of young people in crisis at the federal level and ensure that their concerns are not only recognized but also addressed.
Thus in February 2010, Covenant House established a full-time presence in Washington, D.C., to drive our advocacy agenda with the administration and Congress and to bolster our involvement in coalitions. Today we are a member of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Board of Directors of UNICEF and have taken on a prominent role in The Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). But we need your help to make our voice in Washington even louder!
There are two immediate ways you can get involved and make a difference
Covenant House's Legislative Agenda
Although homeless young adults are affected by a multitude of issues, Covenant House has selected the following four key areas for advocacy:
- Transitional Housing Programs
- Employment and Education Programs
- Foster Care Reform
- Trafficking of Minors
Our Legislative Aims
Covenant House, in collaboration with coalition partners and directly with members of Congress and the administration, is working to ensure that the following legislative aims are met during the First Session of the 112th Congress (calendar year 2012):
- Increase in appropriations for housing programs that benefit homeless young adults, in particular the McKinney-Vento Act, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, and Transitional Living programs. The president's FY12 budget recommends funding for McKinney-Vento to be set at $2.37 billion (an increase of $507 million) and proposes that RHYA funding be increased to $135 for FY11, a $14 million increase above the president's FY12 budget.
- Introduction and reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Enacted in 1998, WIA is the federal government's key job training legislation, authorizing several programs, including WIA youth activities. Under current law, WIA youth funds shall be used to provide services to low-income youth between ages 14 and 21 who meet at least one of the following criteria: limited basic literacy skills, high school dropout, homeless/runaway or foster care child, pregnant/parenting, youth offender, or in need of additional assistance to complete education or secure employment. Authorization of WIA expired in FY03, yet these initiatives have continued to be funded through various mechanisms.
- Reintroduction and passage of the International Megan's Law. The International Megan's Law would expand the protection of Megan's Law by providing advance notice of intended travel by high-risk sex offenders outside the United States to the government of the country of destination and by giving the U.S. the right to deny entry into the United States of any foreign nationals convicted of a sex offense against a minor. In the 111th Congress, H.R. 5138 was successfully passed in the House last July.
- Reintroduction and passage of the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act (S. 596), which passed in the Senate prior to the conclusion of the 111th Congress but was held up in the House. The Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victims Support Act was the first bill to address the issue of domestic sex trafficking by establishing block-grant projects in six states that would be used to provide victims with shelter, counseling, legal aid, education and job training, and other basic needs to facilitate their reintegration into society. The bill was reintroduced in the 112th Congress and has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.
- Passage of H.R. 32, the Homeless Children and Youth Act. It would expand the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) definition of "homeless" so that homeless children and youth in involuntary and unstable living arrangements could access housing support services from which they are currently barred. During the 2008-2009 school year, more than 72% of children and youth, or approximately 956,914 individuals, identified as homeless by the Department of Education did not qualify for housing support under HUD's current definition. This bill amends the HUD definition of "homeless" to include homeless children and youth who are already considered homeless by other federal programs.
- Reintroduction and passage of the Educational Success for Children and Youth Without Homes Act of 2009 and the Fostering Success in Education Act of 2009 in the 112th Congress. The former amends the McKinney-Vento Act's Education for Homeless Children and Youth program, which helps schools and districts better identify children and youth experiencing homelessness. The latter provides foster children with protections that are similar to those provided to homeless children under the McKinney-Vento Act. It requires state and local education agencies to collaborate with child welfare agencies to keep foster children in their current schools after they move to new school districts. The passage of these two laws is crucial because studies have shown that both homeless and foster children face significant and common barriers to education. They are significantly more likely than their peers to repeat courses and even grades, underperform on achievement tests, and ultimately drop out of school.
- Reintroduction and passage of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM). During the 111th Congress, House lawmakers passed its version of the DREAM Act (H.R. 6497) by a vote of 216 to 198; however, the Senate never took up its version of the bill (S. 3827) prior to the conclusion of that session. The version passed by the House will extend conditional legal status for five years to undocumented immigrants who were younger than 16 when they entered the country, have lived in the U.S. for at least five years, or have a degree from a U.S. high school or a degree equivalent. They can apply for an additional five years of conditional nonimmigrant status if they've completed at least two years of higher education or military service. Afterward, they can apply for permanent legal status.
- Reintroduction and passage of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act (JJDPRA). Enacted in 1974 and most recently authorized in 2002 (as the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act), the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) oversees the federal administration of the juvenile justice system and requires states to comply with the following core protections: (1) deinstitutionalization of status offenses, (2) placement of status offenders in secure detention, (3) separation of juveniles from adults in adult facilities, and (4) disproportionate representation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system. JJDPA establishes funding for state and local delinquency prevention, rehabilitation, improvements, and research. Authorizations for JJDPA expired in FY07 and FY08, yet these initiatives have continued to be funded through various mechanisms.
- Preservation of funding to AmeriCorps, which was created in 1993 under the National and Community Service Trust Act. In the 112th Congress, the House of Representative passed H.R. 1, which will eliminate AmeriCorps. Since the program’s inception, 85,000 individuals have joined annually, with a total of 500,000 members. AmeriCorps provides block grants to community-based organizations to meet critical needs in the community.
- Reintroduction and passage of the RAISE UP Act (Reengaging Americans in Serious Education by Uniting Programs). Attachment to school is one of the strongest predictors of delinquency. Therefore, every effort should be made to keep young people enrolled in and attending schools. More than 5.2 million young people between the ages of 18 and 24 do not have a high school diploma, representing 17% of the population in this age group. Approximately 4.4 million young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are neither in school nor working, nor do they have a degree beyond high school. The reintroduction of the RAISE UP Act would increase federal investments in education and employment opportunities for disconnected youth between the ages of 14 and 24. It is anticipated that the RAISE UP Act would be incorporated into the WIA reauthorization bill.