HB 6482, An Act Concerning Birth Certificates for Homeless Youth, passed both the House and the Senate and is expected to be signed by the Governor. This legislation allows homeless youth who are on their own to access their birth certificates. Under current law, youth under the age of 18 cannot obtain a birth certificate without a parent's consent. This new legislation will allow "certified homeless" youth between the ages of 15 and 18 obtain a copy of the certificate so they can legally work, get a driver's license and obtain health care, among other necessities.
Connecticut's runaway and homeless youth face many barriers. One of the most common ones is having access to identification, including their birth certificate. Youth who are on their own have left home for many reasons. They may have been kicked out of their home after "coming out" to their parents as gay, lesbian or bisexual. They may be running from abuse or neglect. Or they may have been separated from their family members who are also experiencing homelessness. Many of them have no identification at all. It is our experience that parents or guardians often hold their child's birth certificate. The parent or guardian may refuse to turn it over to the youth, particularly in situations in which the youth is seeking emancipation. In some circumstances, the parent or guardian cannot be located or may refuse to talk to the youth about the birth certificate or other matters.
Youth who do not have access to their birth certificate are unable to obtain permanent identification, including a social security card, passport or driver's license. This hinders the process of enrolling in school, getting a job or getting access to needed entitlements. The changes to be enacted under HB 6482: An Act Concerning Birth Certificates for Homeless Youth will provide runaway and homeless youth with a legal mechanism for obtaining a birth certificate without the consent of their parent or guardian. The Act will put in place measures to verify the status of the youth as being homeless, through school or emergency shelter personnel. This is an important step toward eliminating some of the barriers that homeless youth face and allow them to move forward with obtaining safe and stable permanent housing.
The Appropriations Committee budget proposal sustains the significant new investments in strategies to end homelessness, including a continuing commitment to rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing and affordable housing. The budget proposal includes $500,000 ($250,000 each year of the biennium) for short-term financial assistance to help homeless families and individuals move quickly into permanent housing—an important step to achieving long-term stability.
In Connecticut and around the nation, we have seen that rapid rehousing works for a significant percentage of households who experience homelessness. The strategy includes short-term financial assistance to cover the costs of a security deposit, a few months’ rent, relocation costs or utility arrearages, as well as case management supports to help families and individuals find and maintain stable housing, and also to take steps to increase or stabilize their income. Data from programs around the country indicate that 90% or more of households served by rapid rehousing do not return to shelter within a year or more after receiving assistance.
One great example of rapid rehousing at work –
Anne came to CT with her new husband last year and settled into life in western CT. Soon after moving here, her husband became abusive, only becoming worse after Anne learned that she was pregnant with twins. She was able to escape her husband and went to a homeless shelter but had no supports of her own in CT. Her limited financial resources were not enough to allow her to save for a security deposit or to fully afford rent and all of her living expenses. Shelter staff referred her to her the local rapid rehousing program for case management and supportive services.
With a security deposit and small rent subsidy from CCEH’s Rapid Rehousing Program, Anne was finally able to leave the homeless shelter, just in time for the birth of her twin sons. Anne and her boys are thriving in their new home. She says that they are comfortable and safe. Anne, who has since returned to work, referred to the Rapid Rehousing Program as a “life saver”, making the difference between staying in the homeless shelter after the birth of her children and starting a new life with them in their own home.
Anne’s story truly exemplifies what a small amount of financial assistance and the right supports can do for a homeless family. The Rapid Rehousing Program provided just what they need to get back on their feet and exit homelessness.
Rapid rehousing is a strategy that works and CCEH wants to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Appropriations Committee for their continued support of this proven approach.
We want to invite you—our members, allies, partners and friends—to contact your legislator and thank them for their continued support.
From Public News Service:
"HARTFORD, Conn. - Families with children are the fastest-growing sector of Connecticut's homeless population, and that's why local advocates are hoping this year's state budget includes funding for "Rapid Re-Housing."
According to Lisa Sementilli, deputy director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, the state got a chance to, in effect, test-drive Rapid-Re-housing with stimulus dollars, and the evidence shows it's an effective tool, especially for combating family homelessness.
"It's a model that's been tried both in Connecticut and the nation, and it works," Sementilli declared. "It's cost-effective, it's short-term assistance, and it keeps people out of shelters."
Sementilli said the program moves families from shelters or emergency situations quickly, which helps create stability once they are housed.
State lawmakers are expected to decide next week whether to adopt Governor Dannel Malloy's proposal to include $250,000 in funding in the two-year budget.
Sementilli reported that several thousand Connecticut households were able to access rapid re-housing during the last round of major stimulus funding from the federal government. She said the state used the money mainly to assist homeless families and single parents.
"So, we have Connecticut-based results, and we know that very few people, less than ten percent of the people who received that type of assistance during the 'stimulus,' ever returned to needing to stay in an emergency homeless shelter," she stated.
Sementilli noted that homelessness among Connecticut families with children jumped by 16 percent from 2010 to 2012, and more than 4,000 families are projected to need rapid re-housing in the state during the next five years. Her group is part of the "Opening Doors - Connecticut" plan, which aims to end family homelessness in the state by 2020."
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants program is the biggest federal program dedicated to preventing and ending homelessness. The National Alliance to End Homelessness has launched the campaign to support robust funding for McKinney-Vento in FY 2014. This funding is needed to implement the bi-partisan HEARTH Act which reauthorized McKinney-Vento. A McKinney-Vento Sign-On Letter is being circulated in the House of Representatives. We can thank Rep. Joe Courtney and Rep. Rose DeLauro for signing onto Rep. Gwen Moore’s Dear Colleague letter -- requesting robust funding in FY 2014 for Homeless Assistance Grants. We also need support from Reps. Himes, Larson and Esty. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives now have until next Wednesday, April 17th to sign on to the letter. Contact. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to find your Congressperson’s phone number or visit the House website.
The HEARTH Act emphasizes solutions to homelessness. While there are deep cuts (in both federal and state government) to many housing and safety-net programs, homelessness and housing insecurity will likely increase without help from Congress. Congress should provide $2.381 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants in FY 2014 (the amount in President Obama’s FY 2014 Budget Proposal). This level would cover the renewal demand; expand permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing; and help communities expand their emergency solutions investments in order to continue to address proven solutions after the end of stimulus dollars.