Rep. Sherrill Re-Introduces the Bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act

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More than 10,500 New Jersey Students are Estimated to be Homeless

WATCH: In Montclair, Sherrill Discussed the Legislation and Hosted a Panel Discussion

Parsippany, NJ – RealEstateRama – Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) re-introduced the bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act alongside Republican Reps. Bill Posey (FL-08) and Don Bacon (NE-02) and Democratic Rep. Delia Ramirez (IL-03). This legislation would improve access to housing services and assistance for children, youth, and families by aligning the definition of homelessness across federal agencies and by making it easier for communities to decide how to best use homeless assistance funding to meet their needs. More than 10,500 students were identified as homeless in New Jersey in 2021, including 1,200 in Essex County alone.

“Upwards of eighty percent of homeless children currently fall between the gaps of federal definitions of homelessness, making it very difficult for them to access critical federal homeless assistance funding,” said Rep. Sherrill. “We must address this issue with the urgency it deserves. My legislation will align the definition of homelessness across federal agencies and provide more flexibility to communities in deciding how to best use homeless assistance funding to meet their needs. I am re-introducing this bill because as a nation, we can and should do everything we can to ensure that all children and families have a safe place to call home every night.”

“We are seeing more and more families with young children living in cars, hotels, or with friends because they have fallen on hard times and are struggling to find stable housing. While they may be considered homeless by other government agency standards, many are denied access to housing assistance because they don’t fit HUD’s narrow qualifications. This bipartisan legislation is a commonsense approach to resolving this issue and helping these families get back on their feet,” said Rep. Posey.

“I’m proud to join Congresswoman Sherrill as a colead of the Homeless Children and Youth Act. Housing definitions enshrined into federal law are only as good as they are rooted in the people and communities they are supposed to serve. Our legislation deepens those roots as we keep working to advance housing justice for all,” said Rep. Ramirez.

“No homeless child should be denied services because they don’t fit a particular definition of homelessness,” said Rep. Bacon. “Youth homelessness is a heartbreaking issue, and making the definition consistent across all federal programs will provide clarity so that assistance can be made available to children who need it and we can better understand the scope of the problem.”

The Homeless Children and Youth Act has also been endorsed by a large number of housing and child advocacy organizations, including Family Promise, Homeless Solutions, JBWS, SchoolHouse Connection, National Network for Youth, First Focus Campaign for Children, and Covenant House. It is co-sponsored by Reps. Marc Veasey, Brian Fitzpatrick, Madeleine Dean, Andy Kim, Suzanne Bonamici, Mary Gay Scanlon, and André Carson.

Organizations across New Jersey and the country applauded the introduction of the legislation: 

“Family Promise’s work over more than three decades as a national service provider supports the research that children experiencing homelessness — as identified by either definition — suffer the same levels of trauma, toxic stress on brain function, and poor long-term outcomes. HCYA is critical legislation that will ensure a more inclusive response to the homeless crisis, enabling hundreds of thousands of children to access the services their trauma deserves. This is the perfect opportunity to better align our strategic national efforts to support children and families,” said Cheryl Schuch, CEO of Family Promise.

“Homeless Solutions, Inc. is pleased to join Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill in support of the reintroduction of the Homeless Children and Youth Act, which aims to substantially improve homeless service provisions by aligning federal agencies on the definition of homelessness and recognizing that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to permanently ending homelessness in communities across the US. The HCYA ensures that no child will slip between the cracks and all housing insecure families will have access to true continuums of services that are well-established, client-centered and designed to provide safe shelter while working towards a permanent end to their homelessness. As the largest provider of shelter and homeless services in Morris County, NJ, we thank Congresswoman Sherrill for listening to the needs of our community’s most vulnerable residents and fighting for every child’s chance at having a place to call home,” said Shannon Muti, Director of Programs and Services at Homeless Solutions, Inc.

“Studies show that over half of all homeless women report domestic violence as the cause of their homelessness. Our collective work must be to ensure that safe, affordable housing is available to victims of domestic violence, and we must reduce the barriers they face in securing and maintaining housing. The proposed legislation is significant because it expands HUD’s definition of homelessness including allowing access to funding for DV victims and their children temporarily staying with others, or self-paying in a motel, which is a common occurrence when fleeing an abusive situation.  The HCYA would also allow communities to utilize HUD funding for programs with a proven track record like transitional housing for DV victims and their children, rather than just a prescribed “one size fits all” national model that may not meet the specific needs and opportunities in your area.  Since taking office Congresswoman Sherrill has been an advocate for the safety and long-term success of families impacted by domestic violence and for that we are incredibly grateful,” said Diane M. Williams, President & CEO of JBWS.

“Public schools, early childhood programs, and institutions of higher education use a definition of homelessness that reflects how children and youth experience homelessness – as well as the harm that happens out of sight. The Homeless Children and Youth Act brings HUD’s definition of homelessness in line with these other federal definitions. In doing so, it removes barriers to assistance, helps communities leverage all available resources, and ultimately will prevent today’s homeless children and youth from becoming tomorrow’s homeless adults,” said Barbara Duffield, Executive Director of SchoolHouse Connection.

“HUD homeless assistance is not accessible to people in hidden-homeless situations- such as youth who are couch surfing. Under current HUD policy, children and youth in such living situations are not even assessed for services and subsequently not able to access HUD homeless assistance. HCYA would change that so that no other young person experiencing homelessness would face barrier after barrier when trying to get help,” said Darla Bardine, Executive Director of the National Network for Youth.

“Just because a child is not on the street doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing homelessness. The Homeless Children and Youth Act would accommodate the reality of child and family homelessness, which often hides them in motels or in the homes of others, and would offer them the assistance they so desperately need. Homelessness is both a symptom and a cause of trauma for children and the sooner we address it, the healthier the next generation will be. First Focus Campaign for Children applauds Reps. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) and Bill Posey (R-FL) for introducing this important legislation,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children.

“We thank Reps. Mikie Sherrill and Bill Posey (R-FL) for leading the effort to align HUD’s definition of homelessness with definitions used by other federal programs, so our most vulnerable youth are not excluded. This act will remove barriers and streamline processes which unnecessarily limit youth from accessing vital housing and supportive services which prevent housing instability and the potential of experiencing further trauma. We can and must do better for all young people and change policies and practices that are obstacles to their future and long-term success,” said Bill Bedrossian, President & CEO of Covenant House.

“It was a pleasure to be a part of the discussion panel today with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill regarding such an important topic that will help get legislation passed to incorporate and assist our homeless families and youth. This should open the doors for more resources that help local agencies do more to provide relief to those that are struggling to attain affordable housing,” said Terrence L. McCoy, Division Director of the Essex County Division of Community Action.


According to U.S. Department of Education data, public schools identified almost 1.1 million homeless children and youth in the 2020-2021 school year. Over eighty-percent of these students fall between the gaps of federal definitions of homelessness – they are considered homeless by public schools, early childhood programs, institutions of higher education, and child care providers, but not by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As a result, these children and their families, as well as youth who are homeless on their own, are not eligible to be assessed for HUD homeless assistance.

The Homeless Children and Youth Act amends the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definitions for homeless individuals and homeless children or youth to align HUD definitions with other federal assistance programs. These amendments will increase access to federal homeless programs by homeless children, youth, and families.

The legislation also provides greater funding flexibility for local communities to help them better address the needs of their residents, such as transitional housing assistance for local populations who need additional support like domestic violence survivors and working families.


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