As November draws to a close, many families spend time together and give thanks; November is also National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. It is an opportunity to bring awareness to the fact that in 2013, there were approximately 2.5 million children in the U.S. who experienced homelessness. According to Project Hope-Virginia, of those 2.5 million there were 18,486 students in Virginia identified as homeless.*

The number of children who are experiencing homelessness are at a historic high, and they need the support and concern of their communities. One way we can help is by passing the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA), which will expand the current definition of homelessness and make it easier for homeless children, youth and families to have access to already existing services, regardless of what kind of homelessness they are experiencing (i.e. living in motels and doubled up). In Virginia, 70% of the youth are doubled up (or “couch surfing”). With the passage of HYCA, there would be a change in the definition and an increase in funding for Mckinny-Vento education and housing for Virginia’s youth.

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We know that children who are experiencing homelessness are sick four times as often as other children, they have high rates of acute and chronic illness, they suffer three times the emotional as well as behavioral problems as other children, and they are four times as likely to have developmental delays. With the passage of HCYA, these children and youth will have better access to services and eventually more permanent and stable housing. The stability of a home and no longer being transient have the potential to significantly mitigate those risk factors mentioned above.

With the upcoming holidays, express your gratitude by supporting these children:

  1. Show your support by supporting HCYA on Facebook
  2. Sign a Change.org Petition here.
  3. Write a letter or call your U.S. Senators or Representatives requesting their support. (Our blog post on Advocacy is a good place to learn more about being an effective advocate.)

Resources for further education:

  1. Help Homeless Kids Now
  2. Project HOPE-Virginia
  3. Fairfax County Office to Prevent and End Homelessness

And don’t forget to visit SCAN’s Parent Resource Center for fact sheets and a recent radio show on the topic!

— Sydna Cooper, SCAN MSW Intern

* Homeless Children America, http://www.homelesschildrenamerica.org/mediadocs/282.pdf and Project Hope-Virginia, http://education.wm.edu/centers/hope/
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