Building Teams for Change:

Changing State Policy to Change Lives

While Congress remains deeply divided over issues such as the budget and immigration, many opportunities exist for creating systemic change through state policy. State policy change is especially relevant to addressing youth homelessness, since many of the laws that most directly impact unaccompanied homeless youth –the rights of minors, health care, housing, employment, education, and child welfare – fall within the purview of state legislatures.

SchoolHouse Connection’s state policy program, “Building Teams for Change,” supports state-based teams in achieving lasting, state-level policy changes that will end homelessness for many youth and improve the lives and futures of young people experiencing homelessness in real, measurable ways.

Like our federal policy advocacy, our state policy advocacy embodies the principle that change must be rooted in the realities of local communities, reflect local concerns, and represent locally-devised solutions.

Therefore, our state advocacy begins with surveys of young people and providers to identify policy barriers preventing youth experiencing homelessness from receiving assistance in each state. Then, we convene open stakeholder meetings to review survey results, develop policy proposals, and provide interactive, state-policy training.

In November 2017, we held our first three State Advocacy Institutes in Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana.We developed policy proposals and work plans responding to the unique conditions in each state. We also managed to have some fun, engaging in role plays to demonstrate how to interact with legislators, supporters, and even opponents.

  • In Kentucky, five high school students and one college student attended the Institute and shared their views on barriers and solutions.
  • In Indiana, we partnered with the Indiana Youth Institute to pair our meeting with their Because Kids Count statewide conference. The Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) and the Indiana Youth Services Association are helping to take the lead on state policy work there.
  • In Tennessee, McKinney-Vento liaisons from across the state led the charge, with Middle Tennessee State University and the United Way providing important support.
By reviewing the legislative process, and studying governors’ and legislatures’ priorities, we were able to take the first steps toward achieving meaningful state policy change in 2018. As we work on our policy priorities in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, we’re also planning our next batch of State Advocacy Institutes in New Jersey, Louisiana, Maine and Utah.

SchoolHouse Connection State Law Briefs

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