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State Highlights

Some areas where Massachusetts has moved the needle relative to other states include addressing the educational needs of youth experiencing homelessness, preventing their contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems, allowing them to access critical supports and services, creating systems to address their needs, and promoting safe and inclusive environments by providing protections for LGBTQ youth in key programs.

Law and Policy

Law & Policy

  • The state has RHY statutes similar to the federal Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) that provides funding for emergency services and other supports to prevent and end youth homelessness. 
  • State law allows youth in need of care to receive services without court involvement.
  • State law does not specifically criminalize running away.
  • State law provides youth experiencing homelessness some contract rights.
  • The state allows unaccompanied youth under 18 to apply for health insurance coverage on their own.

Systems

Systems

  • There is a current state plan to end homelessness that contains a youth-specific strategy component which addresses the needs of LGBTQ youth. 
  • The state has created an entity that focuses solely on designing, implementing, and evaluating youth homelessness programs.
  • There is a state interagency council on homelessness.

Environment

Environment

  • The state promotes safe and inclusive environments in juvenile justice and child welfare programs by providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 
  • The state has banned conversion therapy for minors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

 

Recommendations for Improvement

There is room for improvement throughout the metrics for the Bay State, with emphasis on the Environment category. Creating a more welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment for youth experiencing homelessness should be prioritized. 

Law and Policy

Law & Policy

  • Establish a formal process for emancipation.
  • Provide cash incentives for youth who graduate high school or earn a GED.
  • Explicitly allow homeless youth to use SNAP to buy hot restaurant or prepared meals.

Systems

Systems

  • Implement a statewide housing needs assessment that identifies groups at greatest risk for homelessness.

Environment

Environment

  • Organize and maintain a self-governing youth action board or council to inform youth homelessness policy within the state.
  • Require training about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, healthy sexual development, or issues specific to LGBTQ youth for staff working in runaway and homeless youth systems.
  • Promote safe and inclusive environments in runaway and homeless youth programs by providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

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