On Wednesday, April 29 CWLA participated in a policy briefing at the White House that focused attention on youth and homelessness at the White House. The session included a series of comments from key Administration officials as well as panel discussions.
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness established under the McKinney Vento Act has the responsibility to coordinate the federal government response to homelessness. On June 22, 2010 the Council released an Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The opening doors policy has four key goals:
Finishing the job of ending chronic homelessness in 2016,
Prevent and end veterans’ homelessness in 2015,
Prevent and end homelessness among families, youth and children in 2020, and
Set a path to ending all types of homelessness.
The plan includes 58 strategies best and best practices from around the country. The opening remarks at the White House briefing were provided by Luke Tate, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Mobility, and Roy L Austin, Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice an Opportunity, White House Domestic Policy Council. Also opening the event was celebrity and entertainer Cindy Lauper who has been an outspoken advocate to address homelessness of youth and the co-founder of the True Colors Fund. The fund is a charity that works to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Lauper discussed her experiences and offered encouragement to the many young people at the White House event.
There are wide estimates of just how many young people are homeless ranging from half a million to 1.6 million with estimates that up to 40 percent are gay, lesbian, questioning or transgender. Many of these young people have been kicked out of their own homes and are responsible for their own survival and are frequent targets of exploitation, trafficking and abuse while living on the streets.
Speaking at the event Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez offered a spirited and inspirational talk about the mission of ending homelessness for young people. The event included a series of panels with a number of key representatives from the federal government that included officials from HHS, Education, Labor, Housing and the Justice Department. In addition to a discussion of what each department was doing, participants heard from Anne Miskey, Funders Together to End Homelessness, who urged funders to increase their focus and to also become advocates for effective national and state policy. Bryan Samuels, Chapin Hall, discussed the need to have better data and information to assist in understanding the challenges within this population and to better inform policymaking.
Other discussions involve local programs from Washington State and Cincinnati, Ohio. The afternoon also included a discussion between four young people from Washington State, Tennessee, New York and the District of Columbia. They all discussed their own paths to homelessness, the challenges, the resources and what is needed to help young people like them.