Today Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblywoman Blanca E. Rubio joined advocates for youth experiencing homelessness, including Larkin Street, to introduce a new bill to help the rising number of homeless youth in California. Senate Bill 918 is sponsored by the California Coalition for Youth, Tipping Point Community, Equality California, John Burton Advocates for Youth, the Corporation for Supportive Housing, and Housing California.
SB 918 creates an Office of Homeless Youth to set goals and map progress toward ending youth homelessness. The bill further directs $60 million in funding to address the alarming rise of youth homelessness in California.
Preliminary data from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2017 homeless count shows the number of homeless youth in California has increased to over 15,000, a 26% increase from 2016, and 32% increase from 2015. Another study released by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago found that one in 10 youth between the ages of 18 and 25 and one in 30 adolescents between the age of 13 and 17 experience some form of homelessness over the year in the United States. That is equal to about 3.5 million 18-25 year-olds and 700,000 13 to 17 year olds who are experiencing homelessness.
“Youth homelessness is a crisis in California, and we have a moral duty to take care of our young people before they fall into chronic homelessness,” said Senator Wiener. “The increasing number of homeless youth set off alarm bells across the state. SB 918 will help us get young people off the streets and into housing and services, which is how we will save lives and reduce chronic homelessness in the long-term.”
“Facing even one night of homelessness can leave a devastating mark on a young person’s physical and psychological well-being,” said Assemblywoman Rubio. “The research is definitive; there are significant negative consequences for youth if they are subjected to homelessness. That is why we have introduced SB 918, which would create the first line of defense to protect California’s youth from this terrible situation.”
Last fall, Senator Wiener and Assemblywoman Rubio, who are the respective Chairs of the Senate and Assembly Human Services Committees, held a joint hearing in Los Angeles on Youth Homelessness. At that hearing, service providers, researchers, and formerly homeless youth all testified about the causes, impacts, and experiences of youth homelessness in California. A recording of the hearing can be viewed here.
At that hearing, Senator Wiener and Assemblywoman Rubio announced they work toward a bill to address the issue, which is SB 918.
SB 918 creates an Office of Homeless Youth within the Housing and Community Development Department, which will set goals to end youth homelessness, identify gaps in services statewide, collect key data, provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions, administer grants to support homeless youth, and report back to the Legislature on progress towards ending youth homelessness.
SB 918 also establishes $60 million in grants from the Cannabis tax fund and general funds to homeless youth programs, to be used for rapid rehousing, rental assistance, shelters for minors and youth, transitional housing, host homes, and non-time limited supportive housing. Grantees must provide services to youth and report data and outcomes to the Office of Homeless Youth.
SB 918 also expands the recently formed Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council by one seat to include a representative from the Office of Homeless Youth.
For more details on the bill, see the SB 918 Fact Sheet here.
Sherilyn Adams, Executive Director Larkin Street Youth Services and Board Chair, California Coalition for Youth: “We are beyond excited that Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Rubio are championing the needs of young people. The Office of Homeless Youth will ensure that all young people, and in particular LGBTQ youth and youth of color, who are over-represented among youth experiencing homelessness, will no longer have to sleep on the streets, and will have every opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Rick Zbur, Executive Director, Equality California: “We are grateful for the commitment Senator Wiener and Assemblymember Rubio have shown to addressing the crisis of youth homelessness in our state, particularly the 4 out of 10 homeless young people who are LGBTQ in multiple major California cities. This measure will help approve the lives and provide opportunities for these young people through the funding it provides to meet their needs and help them find safe and secure homes.”
Daniel Lurie, CEO and Founder, Tipping Point Community: “The rise of youth homelessness in California – especially amongst those who have been in the foster care system – is simply unacceptable. We must address this crisis with a sense of urgency, focus, and commitment. This legislation is a critical step towards identifying early interventions so our community’s most vulnerable young people can access the resources and protections they need to break the cycle of poverty.”
Amy Lemley, John Burton Advocates for Youth: “Homelessness among youth has reached a crisis point in California. We must remember that these are children, like our own, who deserve our protection and support. This important legislation has the promise of providing that, by establishing effective programs that can move young people out of homeless and into stability. Thank you, Senator Wiener, for your leadership in authoring this SB 918.”
Housing California Executive Director Lisa Hershey: “Housing California commends Senator Wiener for bringing legislative attention to the housing needs of the more than 15,000 youth experiencing homelessness in California. Without a safe, stable place to live, it is impossible for young people to focus on their health, education or future. It is California’s responsibility, at the very least, to provide the ladder of opportunity to all youth. An Office of Homeless Youth to coordinate resources and administer grants specifically to address youth experiencing homelessness is a bold step in the right direction to addressing this growing issue.”
Sharon Rapport, Associate Director, California Policy for Corporation of Supportive Housing: “In the state with the largest population of homeless youth in the nation, we applaud Senator Wiener’s commitment to addressing the needs of homeless young adults and homeless unaccompanied minors. This bill will not only coordinate and leverage existing resources to reduce homelessness among youth, it will provide much-needed funding for this vulnerable population to access a safe, decent place to call home. We look forward to working with Senator Wiener to pass this incredibly important bill.”
At the hearing held last year in Los Angeles, homeless youth advocates discussed California statistics around youth homelessness. The Los Angeles LGBT Center reported that the Homeless Youth Count found 6,000 youth in LA County alone this year. Of these youth, 90% were between the ages of 18-24, 80% were young youth of color, and 70% were from LA County. The LGBT Center also cited a study previously conducted by the Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership showing 40% of homeless young people had been removed by Child Protective Services, 69% reported involvement with the juvenile justice or criminal justice system, and fewer than 50% had a high school diploma or GED.
Students in California’s public school system are also impacted by homelessness. A report released by the California State University System revealed that 1 of every 10 of its 460,000 students is homeless. The Los Angeles Community College District found that 1 of every 5 of its 230,000 students is homeless.