March 05, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today renewed his support for the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, legislation that strives to curb youth homelessness in Maine and across the country.
“It’s nearly impossible to think about your future when you’re just trying to figure out if you can find a safe place to sleep,” Senator King said. “That’s not right, and it’s just one of the many stark challenges that homeless teens face every day. The programs supported by this bill fund critical services that can get kids off the street, turn their lives around, and give them the hope and shot at success they deserve.”
The legislation, introduced by Senators Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), reauthorizes a critical federal grant program established to help states and local communities address the needs of runaway and homeless youth in both urban and rural areas. The bill also extends the Transitional Living Program, which provides longer-term residential services, life skills, education, and employment support to older homeless youth. The proposal also reauthorizes the Street Outreach Program, a community-based program that focuses on crisis intervention.
The reauthorization measure includes important new language to combat human trafficking, as well as a non-discrimination clause to prohibit any grantee from discriminating against a child based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This new language would provide critical protection for the up to 40 percent of homeless youth who identify as LGBT.
According to the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children (NCMEC), approximately 39 percent of the country’s homeless population is under the age of 18, with this demographic at a greater risk of human trafficking, suicide, substance abuse, and incarceration than others in their age group. Additionally, NCMEC also estimates that between 2009 and 2013, roughly 7,000 missing child cases reported were likely child sex trafficking victims.
Organizations in Maine that work to end youth homelessness include Preble Street in Portland, New Beginnings in Lewiston, and Shaw House in Bangor.
Senators Leahy and Collins introduced the legislation last year. Senator King announced his support for it last year after touring several facilities in Portland that provide services to the city’s homeless population.