SACRAMENTO – Homeless teens will have vastly improved options for shelter, education and social services under AB 2001, a bill just introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. Ammiano has been a consistent advocate for the rights of the homeless. With this bill, he is aiming at a concrete solution for homeless youth.
"It's sad that our approach until now has focused on two paths that don't really help these kids," Ammiano said. "Many are sent into a foster care system that doesn't understand the needs of teens who are homeless because they have been abused or rejected by their families. As well-meaning as these programs are, homeless youth often don't find their needs met there. They run away, and as a result, lose access to funded services. Teens on the street often fall into a different system: juvenile justice. Once they get in there, it is difficult to escape being branded as criminals. We need a third path."
Meanwhile, group homes and shelters providing the services and support to chronically homeless youth have long waiting lists as a consequence of inadequate funding.
AB 2001 would enable a Juvenile Dependency Court judge to make a determination that an unaccompanied minor is chronically homeless as a result of parental abuse or neglect. The youth would then be eligible for federal funding that would follow him or her to a specialized homeless youth shelter or group home. Those facilities provide services, including independent living skills instruction, to assist chronically homeless youth.
"There are unmet needs and gaps in services for older teenagers who are out on the streets and on their own," notes Sherilyn Adams, Executive Director of Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco and Board Chair of the California Coalition for Youth (CCY). "Homeless teenagers often have similar histories of abuse and neglect as their peers in the foster care system but have often fallen through the cracks when referred to the child protection system for services. We are grateful for Assemblymember Ammiano's leadership on this issue and his long standing commitment to runaway and homeless youth."
"We have heard from many of our member organizations across the state about unaccompanied minor homeless youth they are trying to help who do not qualify for services," said Paul Curtis, Executive Director of CCY. "This bill will help change that."
"What we want to do is simplify the process so that youth get the services they need and so that providers are adequately funded," Ammiano said. "In reality, we know that homelessness is a complex problem that won't be solved overnight, but this is an important step to help the most vulnerable among our homeless."
CONTACT: Carlos Alcalá, Office of Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, (916) 319-2017