A bill to reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) would more than double the current authorization for its programs while adding a new component to focus on preventing youth homelessness in the first place.
“We will never end human trafficking unless and until we end youth homelessness,” said Kevin Ryan, president of Covenant House, in a statement endorsing the bill. “I implore all those waging this fight against trafficking to see the end of youth homelessness as an essential front.
To that end, the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act creates a Prevention Services Program to go along with existing endeavors of RHYA, which are all interventions into ongoing homelessness: street outreach, emergency shelter and transitional living programs. The bill envisions the prevention work being carried out by those intervention programs: the prevention funds will be available as a $75,000 augmentation to grant applications for outreach shelter and transitional living grants.
Overall, the bill raises the total authorization for RHYA activities up to $370 million. Since it is a discretionary program, it’s up to appropriators to actually put that much funding into it through spending bills. Were that to happen, it amounts to more than double the most recent appropriation of $140 million for fiscal 2022.
Among the other significant changes made to the program: it would increase allowable length of stay for a youth in a crisis shelter from 21 to 30 days, or longer if state law permits, and all grantees of the program will be required to sign agreements that contain a nondiscrimination clause.
The bipartisan legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and in the Senate by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).