Policy and Advocacy Initiatives
For information on current policy issues and calls to action at the Federal, State, and Local level, skip to Legislative Action.
Advocacy is the way in which Larkin Street helps to ensure that at-risk and homeless youth have access to resources and the greatest opportunity to improve their lives. Advocacy works to secure and expand funding for needed services, as well as inform and influence development of sound policy. Given the broad range of direct services and the variety of programs at Larkin Street, the agency is in a unique position to impact systemic change by sharing with policy makers their knowledge about programs and services that work. We believe it is our responsibility to take a leadership role in addressing structural inequalities and ensuring that the most effective social and public policies are instituted. This is accomplished through regular participation in advocacy at a variety of levels:
- Community education to raise awareness of issues impacting runaway and homeless youth
- Participation in local, statewide, and national policy-setting workgroups or boards to inform policy creation and funding allocations
- Legislative advocacy to inform elected officials about the potential impact of legislation on runaway and homeless youth
Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act
The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act is bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). The services funded through RHYA include outreach, family reunification, counseling, shelter, and transitional housing. Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, yet Congress failed to pass legislation to reauthorize this important program. The bill includes some new provisions which strengthens efforts to identify youth who have been trafficked and sexually exploited and ensures that all youth have access to services, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It also increases the allowable length of stay for minor emergency shelters funded under the Basic Center Programs from 21 to 30 days, to allow more time for family reunification services.
Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2015
The Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2015 expands the HUD definition of homelessness to include children and youth who are verified as homeless by other federal program personnel and would increase access to services for these vulnerable populations. Many homeless children and youth are not able to access HUD services such as transitional housing and other wraparound services because HUD’s current definition of homelessness excludes children, youth, and families who are living in motels or temporarily with others because they have nowhere else to go. By expanding the definition we will have a more accurate and truthful accounting of the level of homelessness in our country, which would allow policymakers to make informed decisions and appropriately allocate resources. The Homeless Children and Youth Act was offered as an amendment to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act earlier this year by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The amendment contains no new mandates, and costs nothing.
For more information and ways to take action: A Couch is Not a Home
Access to Education for Homeless Youth (SB 252)
Access to Education for Homeless Youth (SB 252) would prohibit the Department of Education or testing companies from charging an exam fee to young people in California who are homeless. The challenges of homelessness lead to disproportionately low rates of high school graduation among homeless students. Becoming homeless means that you are 87% more likely to stop attending school. Currently, three testing centers offer the high school equivalency exam in California, with exam fee ranging from $150-$200. This cost acts as an impossible barrier for many homeless youth hoping to take the exam. The bill removes this barrier and offers homeless youth a pathway to post-secondary education.
For additional information: Access to Education Fact Sheet (SB 252)
Homeless Youth – Housing Priority in Higher Education (AB 1228)
Improving long term outcomes for homeless youth includes getting them on a path out of poverty and toward a sustainable, living-wage career. An essential component is increasing their level of educational attainment to expand the opportunities available to them that would support their long-term self-sufficiency. Although 25% of homeless youth in San Francisco have not completed high school or obtained a GED, 72% want to further their education. This legislation reduces the barriers to education for homeless youth. AB 1228 would require that California State University and the University of California give prioritized access for on-campus housing to students experiencing homelessness. In addition, it would ensure that on-campus housing remain available to these students over breaks without additional fees or costs.
For additional information: Housing Priority in Higher Education Fact Sheet
Right to Rest Act of 2015 (SB 608)
The Right to Rest Act of 2015 (SB 608) would decriminalize activities such as standing, sitting, resting, sleeping and sharing of food in public places. According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty 74% of California cities ban these types of activities compared to 33% on non-Californian cities. The effects of these criminalizing laws is that it creates barriers for individuals trying to stabilize their lives. Both unpaid tickets and a criminal record can hinder someone’s ability to obtain housing or become employed. The Right to Rest Act will end the practice of citing and imprisoning people without a home for resting, sharing food, or practicing their religion in public. It also resolves to reduce the impact of homelessness on communities and individuals by diverting investment from criminalization to stabilization efforts.
Building Homes and Jobs Act (AB 1335)
California has a housing affordability and homelessness crisis. California has 12% of the United States population, but 20% of its homeless population. And we have the largest population of homeless children and youth, with 30% of the national total. Increasing the amount of affordable housing available in the state is crucial to addressing the large number of residents who are without a home. The Building Homes and Jobs Act establishes a permanent funding source for affordable housing, through a small fee on real estate transaction documents that does not include home sales. And it would create an estimated 29,000 jobs annually for every $500 million spent on affordable housing.
For additional information: Building Homes and Jobs Act – Fact Sheet
Low Income Housing Tax Credit (AB 35)
California has a shortfall of over one million affordable homes. At the same time we are experiencing a continued dramatic rise in rents at a time when the median income has been falling. Both of these contribute to homelessness across the state. AB 35 would increase California’s investment in low-income housing by $300 million and leverage an additional $600 million in federal housing resources that would otherwise go unclaimed by our state. This measure builds on the proven success of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which for decades has effectively helped finance affordable housing.
For additional information – Low Income Housing Tax Credit – Fact Sheet
The Californians for Homes and Jobs website has information on bills included in Speaker Atkins housing-bill package aimed to stabilize the lives of young people, families, and other individuals struggling to make ends meet – Californians for Homes and Jobs
Currently there are no local initiatives that Larkin Street is calling to attention.
The federal appropriations process is in full swing. There were bright spots in the President’s budget request, which included increased funding for programs that serve runaway and homeless youth, and for homelessness programs in general. However the budgets put forth by Congress are not so sunny. Both the Senate and the House held to budget limits set by the Budget and Control Act of 2011. Without relief from sequestration we will see cuts to vital programs for years to come.
Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA)
RHYA provides outreach, family reunification, counseling, shelter, and transitional housing through three main programs – Street Outreach Program, Basic Center Program, and Transitional Living Program. After years of being flat funded at $115 million, last year saw a reduction of $1 million to the programs. Only 25% of RHYA applicants receive funding due to the limited resources available.
- We support the President’s request of $123 million, which includes $2 million to conduct a prevalence study on youth homelessness (authorized in 2008 but never funded)
McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program
The EHCY program removes barriers to the enrollment, attendance, and success of homeless children and youth in school.
- We support the amount requested in the President’s budget – $71.5 million
McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs
McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs provide crucial funding for communities across the country to address homelessness. However at current funding levels, our effective homeless assistance programs are unable to operate at the capacity necessary to meet the great need of people experiencing housing crises in San Francisco.
- We support a funding level of $2.480 billion
Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)
HOPWA provides housing supports for people living with HIV/AIDS. Stable housing leads to better health outcomes for those living with HIV. Inadequately or unstably housed individuals are less likely to access routine medical care and have poorer health outcomes as they rely on emergency and acute care. Despite its efficiency and effectiveness, HOPWA remains chronically underfunded. The current budget ask would put 20,000 more people into stable housing and make concrete steps to address HOPWA’s waitlist.
- We support a funding level of $364 million
The THP-Plus program provides housing and support services for youth who turned age 18 while in the foster care or juvenile probation systems. The program has shown success in improving outcomes for participants in areas such as education, housing stability, and economic security. However these dollars are not accessible to everyone who could benefit, specifically homeless youth and high-need youth transitioning from extended foster care. A statewide coalitions is an expansion of the program through a budget increase of $30 million. The budget augmentation would be evenly divided between non-minor dependents aging out of care and to homeless youth. The additional funds would provide housing and support services for 1,100 youth each year.
For additional information: THP-Plus Expansion Fact Sheet
Larkin Street’s advocacy activities take a variety of forms:
Coalition Involvement – Participation on boards, committees, and taskforces
- National Network for Youth Policy Advisory Committee: Policy arm of the National Network for Youth the primary national membership organization for runaway and homeless youth providers.
- San Francisco TAY (Transitional Age Youth) Provider Network: Amember organization of community-based agencies who work to ensure there is a comprehensive and coordinated service system for disconnected 16-24 year olds in San Francisco.
For additional information regarding advocacy for runaway and homeless youth please see our Resource Library.