Coalition Testifies on Shelter for Runaway and Homeless Youth

On Tuesday, Coalition for the Homeless and The Legal Aid Society presented testimony before the New York City Council’s Committee on Youth Services on three bills related to shelters for runaway and homeless youth. The Coalition and Legal Aid testified in support of this package during a September 2017 hearing and continue to push for the swift passage of this important legislation. The bills would allow youth through age 24 to stay in shelters operated by the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, and extend the time limits for those youth-specific facilities. One bill requires DYCD to report annually on the demographics and characteristics of the runaway and homeless youth population, but the current bill language has removed an obligation on the City to provide youth-specific shelter and services to all runaway and homeless youth. At the hearing, the Coalition and Legal Aid also emphasized the need for runaway and homeless youth to have access to more permanent housing resources so they can have a true pathway out of the shelter system.

According to the testimony:

Every one of the three preconsidered introductions under consideration today would, if passed, have a meaningful and positive impact on the lives of New York City’s runaway and homeless youth. For this reason, we strongly urge the Council to pass them all. It is worth noting that some of these laws would not be possible without last spring’s amendments to the State’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which provide, among other things, that municipalities may elect to expand their RHY systems to serve youth up to age 24, and that runaway youth may stay in crisis shelter for up to 120 days. While we understand the current Mayoral administration may support some of these initiatives, including already allowing an extension in stays, we believe it is still imperative for the Council to pass the entire package to ensure that RHY will have access to these life-saving services in the long term and regardless of who is in office.

While it is not the direct focus of this hearing, we would be remiss not to mention how crucial it is for RHY to have access to meaningful permanent housing options. Other than some limited supportive housing units, youth leaving the RHY shelter system do not have access to any of the long-term housing resources afforded to individuals leaving other NYC shelters. RHY in youth shelter do not have access to a NYCHA priority or housing vouchers such as LINC. While the City and State administrations have explained that they are working on including RHY in the housing plan and voucher eligibility in the future, that has not yet materialized. Until this population has access to permanent, affordable housing, they will truly be unable to fully realize their potential as self-sufficient members of our city.

The full testimony can be read here.