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U.S. Senate Fails to Reauthorize and Strengthen Programs for Homeless Youth

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Despite a majority of senators voting in favor of the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, legislation falls short of 60-vote threshold to pass


Contacts: Gregory Lewis, 917-855-2533, [email protected]
Jama Shelton, 646-797-6107, [email protected]

April 22, 2015 – Today, the United States Senate failed to pass the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (S.A. 290), which would reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA). The vote was 56 “YES” to 43 “NO” – short of the 60 “YES” votes required to pass.

The Act includes a non-discrimination clause that would help ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth experiencing homelessness not only have access to critical services, but that those services are safe, welcoming, and tailored to meet their unique needs. Research continues to show that while LGBT youth make up just seven percent of the general youth population, they comprise up to 40 percent of the 1.6 million youth that are homeless in America each year.

The True Colors Fund applauds the 56 senators who voted in favor of the Act and thanks Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) for their leadership, but is dismayed by the Senate’s overall decision to deny our nation’s youth invaluable programs to help them obtain housing, education, and job training. In failing to pass this Act, the Senate has also refused service providers across the country much needed training to help them identify victims of human trafficking.

“Thank you to the 56 senators who showed true leadership today by voting in favor of protecting and serving all of our nation’s 1.6 million homeless youth,” said Cyndi Lauper, Co-Founder of the True Colors Fund. “Unfortunately, 43 senators put the objections of conservative religious groups ahead of the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. Every day, homeless gay and transgender youth experience rejection and discrimination from their families, communities, and the providers who are supposed to help them. Today, 43 senators added their names to the group of people who think that it is acceptable to throw away the up to 40% of homeless youth who identify as LGBT.”

RHYA is the only federal law that specifically funds vital services for homeless youth, including street outreach, basic shelter, and transitional living programs. One of the most common factors leading to youth homelessness is family rejection. For LGBT youth, this rejection is often in response to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Stronger support systems for family reunification and intervention are among the improvements this legislation would make to RHYA.

In voting against the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, the Senate is making a conscious decision to continue a cycle of homelessness for youth in America, leave dedicated service providers unequipped to serve our most vulnerable, and refuse young people the resources and opportunities they need to live safe and successful lives.

The True Colors Fund was co-founded by Cyndi Lauper to end homelessness among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth through a broad continuum of public education and engagement, advocacy and public policy, youth collaboration, research, and community building programs. www.truecolorsunited.org