ATEST Applauds Senate Introduction of RHYA Reauthorization to Protect Vulnearable Youth

The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking is pleased to support reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, introduced earlier this month. A significant percentage of unhoused youth become trafficking victims. The bipartisan bill addresses root causes and provides services for the vulnerable.

Here is the news release from the bill’s sponsors:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act of 2023.  This bipartisan legislation will reauthorize key federal grant programs to provide states with funding to help thousands of homeless young people nationwide.  Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE), Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Congressman Zach Nunn (R-IA), and Rep. Morgan McGarvey (D-KY).

“Having a caring and safe place to sleep, eat, grow, and study is crucial for any young person’s development,” said Senator Collins. “Our bipartisan legislation would support young people who run away, are forced out of their homes, or are disconnected from their families, by extending basic social services to these most vulnerable youth in our communities.”

“This legislation is an investment in the future of our nation and a promise not to give up on any child,” said Senator Durbin. “It will help us empower our youth—especially those in underserved communities—to realize their dreams for a better and brighter future, regardless of the traumatic experiences they may have faced.”

“As the number of homeless and runaway youth increases, we must increase our federal efforts to assist and protect these youth who are particularly susceptible to trafficking,” said Rep. Bacon. “This bill provides agencies with the means to support youth who are in vulnerable positions and gives them the resources to address these problems.”

“Young people thrive when they have a safe and stable home,” said Rep. Bonamici, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Homelessness. “We must help and protect youth experiencing homelessness and survivors of trafficking in their time of need. This bipartisan update to the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act will expand and improve the services many youth need when they do not have a place to call home, and it strengthens programs that can empower them to transition out of homelessness.”

“Every young person deserves a safe and secure environment to grow up in,” said Rep. Nunn. “This bipartisan legislation ensures young people in vulnerable situations can receive the help they need to sleep, eat, study, and develop.”

“No child should ever be forced to live on the streets in fear of their wellbeing and safety,” said Rep. McGarvey.“This bipartisan legislation is going provide critical resources to young people experiencing homelessness, especially LGBTQ+ and trans youth who are at a higher risk of being forced out of their homes. I’m proud to continue former Congressman Yarmuth’s fight to help young people in Louisville and across our country; it takes a village to care for our children, and I’m committed to safeguarding our most vulnerable youth.”

“We applaud our congressional champions for introducing the important Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, because our young people continue to face limited access to housing options, education, and living wage employment. This legislation makes critical expansions to meet the needs of today’s youth, and continues the powerful legacy of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act program. Further, it builds on what we already know: ending youth homelessness prevents human trafficking,”said Darla Bardine, Executive Director, National Network for Youth.

I would like to thank Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) for introducing the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA). This reauthorization is one of the most important pieces of legislation to protect and safeguard young people experiencing homelessness,” said Bill Bedrossian, President & CEO of Covenant House.

Youth homelessness is a hidden issue that has severe long-term negative health outcomes for those who experience it,” said Chris Bicknell, Executive Director of New Beginnings in Lewiston, Maine. “This reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act of 2023 includes improvements that increase providers’ ability to serve more youth and implement emerging best practices not only here in Maine but nationally. New Beginnings is grateful for Sen. Collins’s leadership and longstanding commitment to supporting our country’s most vulnerable youth and advocating for solutions to youth homelessness on the national stage.”

Every year in Maine, at least 15,000 youth and young adults experience the tragedy of homelessness; these youth are at much higher risk for human trafficking, both labor and sex, interpersonal violence, suicide, untreated mental health and substance use disorders, and other traumas. To break the cycle of youth homelessness, we must ensure an integrated system of care and safety for these young people. The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act of 2023 provides vital support for the services and resources that will help us to end youth homelessness. We appreciate Senator Collins’ continued advocacy for our most vulnerable youth,” said Mark R. Swann, Executive Director of Preble Street in Portland, Maine.

The landmark Runaway and Homeless Youth Act was first passed by Congress in 1974, providing nationwide support to address youth and young adult homelessness. This reauthorization would expand protections to youths who are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking and would authorize funding for state and local programs to help provide transitional housing, street outreach, and crisis intervention programs to address the needs of homeless and runaway youth.

Among other improvements, this legislation would:

  1. Reauthorize, modernize, and increase authorization levels for programs under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act;
  1. Create a new Prevention Services Program that would make additional resources available to organizations providing counseling, mediation, and other services aimed at preventing youth from running away or becoming homeless;
  1. Increase annual competitive grants for rural youth demographics from $100,000 to $200,000;
  1. Require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a national estimate of the prevalence of homeless youth every three years; and
  1. Increase the allowable length of stay in the Basic Center Program from 21 days to 30 days.

The legislation is supported by youth advocacy organizations including the National Network for Youth, which has supported the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act since it was first enacted in 1974.

A complete list of organizations endorsing this bill can be read here.