On Thursday, Feb. 26, a joint hearing was convened with the Assembly Human Services Committee, Chaired by Assemblymember Eloise Reyes (D-San Bernardino) and the Committee on Housing and Community Development, chaired by Assemblymember David Chu (D-San Francisco), to highlight one of the most important issues facing the state of California today, that of youth homelessness.
Half of chronically homeless adults were homeless during the ages of 18 to 24. With California’s increased efforts on prevention and early intervention among individuals at risk of homelessness or newly homeless, addressing youth homelessness is imperative in addressing the overall homelessness crisis. In recognition of this, Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) and Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) both required, as a prerequisite to receive funding, that recipients set aside a certain percentage of funds to serve homeless youth (5% and 8% respectively). As California continues to bolster its services and supports to address its homelessness crisis, California continues to address youth homelessness in ways that meet the unique developmental and social needs of transition-age youth.
Assemblymember Reyes opened the hearing with, “Last month, Governor Newsom signed an executive order to create a new fund aimed at combatting homelessness by focusing on prevention and early intervention, providing additional services, and creating new temporary housing. It is vital that we include youth experiencing homelessness in these discussions.” Assemblymember Reyes continued, “In recent years, California has invested over a billion dollars to address the issue of homelessness. Those efforts have included a requirement that certain percentages of recently allocated funds be set aside to specifically address youth homelessness. Despite these recent efforts, we acknowledge that there is still more work to be done to ensure that this particularly vulnerable population receives adequate supports and services that are tailored to their unique needs.”
Panelist included Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, Ali Sutton the Deputy Secretary for Homelessness at the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, Shahera Hyatt the Project Director with the California Homeless Youth Project as well as several other experts.
San Bernardino County was represented on the panels by Darryl Evey, Executive Director, Family Assistance Program and Levi Deatherage, Outreach Coordinator/ Youth Advisory Board Chair for Family Assistance Program, who also chairs the California Coalition for Youth Advisory Board.
Darryl Evey provided, “It is exciting to see the state legislature taking on the challenge of addressing youth homelessness. For many years, the focus of many in government has been on the addressing the more obvious people living on the streets and not recognizing that most of them first became homeless when they were young. When we address the issue of homeless youth, not only are we meeting our obligation to help our youth, but we are reducing the number of people who will be homeless in the future.”
Levi Deatherage, Outreach Coordinator/ Youth Advisory Board Chair for Family Assistance Program of San Bernardino said, “I as a youth am proud to see our elected officials changing the dialogue around youth experiencing homelessness. There is no doubt in my mind we need to invest far more heavily into the at risk and vulnerable populations of youth in our state. If the budget were to invest 1 million dollars a year for 10 years into these populations we would see far better outcomes than if we attempt to throw 10 million dollars at the massive issue of chronic homelessness in a decade.”
Assemblymember Reyes also announced at the hearing her intent to introduce legislation setting aside 10% of the funding for the HEAP to specifically assist homeless youth.
In recognition of the homelessness crisis, California has implemented a variety of approaches to stemming the flow of unhoused individuals to the streets, including: embracing a Housing First philosophy; utilizing rapid-rehousing practices; increasing the supply of emergency shelters and navigation centers; and, creating permanent, supportive housing, as well as transitional housing. Most recently, the State has allocated over $1 billion through HEAP and HHAP Program to allow local flexibility in addressing community-specific challenges.
The homeless youth population includes minors who have run away from home, minors who have been expelled from their home or have been prevented from returning to their home, and youth who have had experiences with the foster care or juvenile justice systems. In fact, there is a disproportionate representation of youth who have had experiences in the foster care and juvenile justice systems who experience homelessness.
In recent years, California has made significant efforts to not only reduce the number of homeless individuals in the state, but to specifically reduce the number of youth experiencing homelessness. Because experiencing homelessness as a transition-age youth increases the risk of chronic homelessness in adulthood, it is imperative that the State continue to focus on reducing youth homelessness as an overall strategy for preventing future homelessness.
Full background can be found at https://ahum.assembly.ca.gov/sites/ahum.assembly.ca.gov/files/02-25-2020%20FINAL%20Background%20Paper.pdf
Agenda can be found at https://ahum.assembly.ca.gov/sites/ahum.assembly.ca.gov/files/02-25-2020%20Agenda.pdf