Policy must be changed for the sake of all homeless kids

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Yes, Congress should increase funding to help the homeless (“False Promises: More Homeless Aid Eligibility Requires More Funds,” Aug. 22 editorial), but pretending children aren’t homeless doesn’t help. Rather, Congress should end the de facto U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ban on helping homeless children.

The 1 million children harmed by this policy, including 20,000 in Pennsylvania, are homeless in every way that matters. They may have a roof over their heads tonight, but it’s not their roof, and they never know if they’ll lose it tomorrow. They endure the same horrors facing homeless adults. A 17-year-old Michigan boy was raped by the person he stayed with — he remained because he had nowhere else to go. A 13-year-old girl in Ohio was sexually trafficked by the man who promised her stable housing.

But HUD denies them a safe place to sleep, counseling, basics like food and clothing and other supports, then adds insult to injury by ignoring their plight. HUD even prevents Pittsburgh nonprofits from helping homeless children standing right in front of them.

The bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act, endorsed by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, ends this double-standard. If a homeless adult needed help first, local officials could still provide it. But if a homeless child needed help, they’d no longer be forced to say no.

Opponents, like the National Alliance to End Homelessness, are well-intentioned but too narrow and shortsighted in their perspective. Homelessness will never get sufficient funding if advocates insist on minimizing the problem.

Western Pennsylvania’s own U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus and Pennsylvania’s Sen. Pat Toomey serve on key committees, as does U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick from the Philadelphia area. They’ll help decide whether Congress will empower local leaders to help kids or tacitly endorse HUD’s policy of ignoring homeless children. We urge them to make the right choice.

BRUCE LESLEY
President
First Focus Campaign for Children
Washington, D.C.

JOSEPH LAGANA
Founder and CEO
Homeless Children’s Education Fund
Strip District


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