Youth Site Visit Campaign: Educating our leaders about youth homelessness (over turkey)

written by Catherine An
October 12, 2010
Today's guest post comes from Jeremy Nichols - advocacy intern at the Alliance. If you stop by the Alliance and pop your head in to see what the Advocacy staff is working on, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll hear rumblings about our Youth Site Visit Campaign. What’s the Youth Site Visit Campaign, you ask? Good question! We’re asking homeless assistance providers around the country to invite their Member(s) of Congress to visit their programs over the Thanksgiving recess. (site visit, get it?) With the Youth Site Visit Campaign, we hope to:
  • Raise awareness among Members of Congress about the issue of youth homelessness
  • Strengthen local relationships with Members of Congress from across the country
  • Encourage Congress to increase funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs.
Youth homelessness is an issue that’s always bubbled just beneath the surface of headline news. Just today, there were two articles – one from Tampa, FL and the other from Pittsburgh, PA - about the troublesome incidence of youth homelessness. It’s a serious if underreported problem: homeless youth are at higher risk than their adult counterparts of abuse, exploitation, violence, and crime. And if that weren’t enough, we’re really bad at finding them, counting them, and helping them out. Youth tend to fly under the radar of local and federal assistance programs, evade outreach efforts, and slip through the cracks of the system. Even when young people seek out help, they find few resources targeted to their age group and circumstances. The Alliance estimate there are approximately 50,000 street youth in the United States today. RHYA programs are intended to make the difference. The programs help to prevent victimization, encourage family reunification, and ensure basic safety of unaccompanied children and youth. It’s the only federal law solely focused on unaccompanied, homeless youth, and it provides communities with resources to support a wide spectrum of housing and services: including shelter programs, transitional housing, street-based outreach, and the National Runaway Switchboard. When it comes to advocacy, we have seen time and time again that one of the most effective ways to get members of Congress to pay attention to and truly understand the issue of homelessness is through site visits. These tours and conversations allow the member to see for him/herself the benefits that RHYA funding brings to their constituents. We’re working with local homelessness providers across the country to plan, schedule, and host site visits by members of Congress to their youth programs. Wanna give us a hand? If you would like to get involved and invite a member of Congress to visit your youth program, let us know! We’ll help you figure out how to get the process started. Remember: This is about solutions. By showing our legislators the important work made possible by the RHYA programs, we can both educate our leaders about this important issue and make it possible for them to take action. Stay tuned to the blog to see how the campaign shakes out!