On June 6, the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance held a hearing to review the Homeless Children and Youth Act (H.R. 1511).
- Barbara Duffield, Executive Director, SchoolHouse Connection
- Kat Lilley, Deputy Executive Director, Family Promise of Colorado Springs
- Millie Rounsville, Chief Executive Officer, Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency Inc. of Superior, WI
- Steve Berg, Vice President of Programs and Policy, National Alliance to End Homelessness
A key topic of the hearing was how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition of homelessness creates barriers to assisting children, youth, and families who experience homelessness.
Witnesses also challenged assertions that family and youth homelessness is decreasing, and described the shortcomings of HUD’s Point in Time counts and Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). They gave examples of how children and youth who meet the U.S. Department of Education definition of homelessness are as vulnerable as those who meet HUD’s definition, yet are barred from being assessed for services because of where they happen to be sleeping.
The most poignant testimony came from Kat Lilley, who described her personal experience of homelessness as a mother of six, and her frustration and heartbreak at being unable to assist families in motels or doubled-up situations who do not meet HUD’s narrow definition, but whose vulnerability put them in dire need of services.
Barbara, Kat, and Millie shared examples of how HUD’s national priorities don’t match local needs, preventing communities from serving the neediest people, and resulting in high-performing transitional housing programs that serve youth and families losing funding in recent years.
In sum, the hearing revealed the urgent need for the changes in HUD homelessness policy included in the Homeless Children and Youth Act, and helped counter criticisms of the legislation.