Stivers’ bill offers youth more support by expanding definition of ‘homeless’


Ripon Advance

U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) on April 1 sponsored a bipartisan bill to amend the nation’s main law for supporting children and youth who are experiencing homelessness by aligning the definition of ‘homeless’ across federal agencies. 

“No kid should ever be without a home, and it is unacceptable that our government forces them to attempt to navigate bureaucracy instead of giving them the assistance they need,” Rep. Stivers said on Monday. “This bill will help bring these children out of the shadows, help policymakers better understand the scope of youth homelessness, and, ultimately, give kids the care that they deserve.”

The Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2019, H.R. 2001, cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA), would amend the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act to meet the needs of homeless children, youth and families, and to honor the assessments and priorities of local communities, according to the congressional record.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) continues to use a homeless definition that is different from the definitions used by other government agencies, specifically the U.S. Department of Education. 

Subsequently, the definition does not permit HUD to provide services to certain children, youth and their families who the department doesn’t deem as homeless — such as teens who are considered “couch surfers” or children and families living in motels or in campgrounds, according to Rep. Stivers.

“In order to help children who are homeless, or have nowhere to go, we must make it easier for them to access the assistance programs that are offered in their communities,” said Rep. Loebsack. 

H.R. 2001 would expand HUD’s definition of homeless to include all children and youth who are already verified as being homeless by several other educational and social services programs, according to the text of the bill. 

Rep. Stivers in March 2017 sponsored the original bipartisan, bicameral Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2017, H.R. 1511, which received committee action but no full vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The same-named S. 611 never made it out of a U.S. Senate committee.

The newly reintroduced H.R. 2001 has been referred for consideration to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee and to the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee.