Important Legislation Would Strengthen Services for 1.7 Million Unaccompanied Youth In America

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Representatives Judy Biggert (R-IL-13) and John Yarmouth (D-KY-03) today introduced the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act (H.R. 5524) which authorizes programs and funding for disconnected youth outside of the foster care and juvenile justice system. The current law is set to expire in September.

The National Network for Youth (NN4Y), a non-profit organization committed to ensuring that opportunities for growth and development be available to youth everywhere, has championed this bill. NN4Y member organizations across the country rely on this funding to serve the 1.7 million youth age 17 and below who experience runaway or homeless situations each year. These organizations span the county, and include community-based organizations as well as youth, adults, associations, and regional and state networks of youth workers that provide street-based services, emergency shelter, transitional living programs, counseling, and social, health, educational and job-related services.

“We simply cannot do the work necessary to help these youth without this funding and support,” says Victoria Wagner, CEO of NN4Y. “I watch daily as our member organizations reach out to youth in need and help them create real futures—this legislation is critical to creating those futures for so many.”

The bill increases funding levels for outreach, shelter and transitional housing—it also increases from $100,000 to $150,000—the minimum grant that states may receive from the Basic Center Program (BCP), which provides emergency short-term shelter and family reunification services. The bill also will allow homeless youth in short-term and longer-term transitional housing to extend their stays. These programs have a significant impact in our communities. Community-based, faith-based, and public agencies in every state and territory receive RHYA funds. During fiscal year 2007, RHYA programs served over 740,000 disconnected youth.

Just a few of the youth who benefit from the RHYA programs:

  • Rusty from Kentucky says, “I had no family and no home and at this point, no future. When I got to the shelter the staff welcomed me. I felt safe for the first time in many years.” Rusty testified before congress in July 2007, on behalf of NN4Y member organization Safe Place.
  • Jessica left home when she was 15 to escape a home environment in which her mother was abusive, both emotionally and physically. NN4Y member organization YouthCare in Seattle helped her get off the streets. She says that if she hadn’t gotten involved with YouthCare, she would still be out on the streets. Her long-term plan is to go to college and study sociology. “I want to help people the way they’ve helped me.”
  • Faith felt her life had no purpose or meaning. She wasn’t in school, didn’t have a job and barely had a pillow to rest her head on. With the support of NN4Y member organization Sasha Bruce Youthwork in D.C., she graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA and is now employed at Howard University and enrolling in classes to study Computer Engineering.

“At some point each year, one to three million kids find themselves on their own,” said Biggert, the lead Republican cosponsor of the bill. “By building on our outreach efforts, we can reunite families and put more kids back on the path to a happy, productive future.” Adds Yarmouth, the lead Democratic cosponsor of the bill, “This legislation does more than just reauthorize RHYA; it will provide significant improvements and much needed expansions. I am pleased to joins with Congresswoman Biggert in introducing this bill that will fund the programs that provide the best resources and also create a process for developing a national runaway and homeless youth research and evaluation agenda.”

Millions of homeless youth rely on these programs each day across the country. Every young person deserves a place to call home. For more information on the National Network for Youth or RHYA, contact Mishaela Duran at NN4Y at or (202) 783-7949 Ext. 3109.

CONTACT: Tara James
National Network for Youth
206.686.5615 /