Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) and Rep. Donna Bullock said it was important to raise awareness of homeless youth in Pennsylvania. That’s why they hosted a news conference in the state Capitol on Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Awareness Day.
“Last year there were 36,823 school children in Pennsylvania who experienced homelessness,” Farnese said. “Until that number is zero, we have a lot of work to do.”
“Families in Pennsylvania are struggling,” said Bullock “Those struggles impact their children who deserve whatever stability we can provide them, and that starts with guaranteeing their education.”
Farnese and Bullock teamed up to introduce legislation to recognize “Students Experiencing Homelessness Awareness Week” to bring attention to the 22 percent increase in student homelessness from 2016-2017 to 2017-2018.
Farnese said that chronic homelessness among students often leads to a myriad of problems for children. Homelessness affects mental and physical health and these children are more likely to be the victims of violent crime.
Bullock said that children can become homeless or housing insecure for many reasons. She said these children often have dealt with the opioid crisis, domestic violence, parental job loss, or LGBTQ+ youth who have been refused housing because of their sexual orientation and how they identify.
The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law which requires that school districts accommodate students who are experiencing homelessness, providing stability in at least one aspect of their lives. The law includes providing transportation to students who are homeless or housing insecure, and it also requires leniency in residency requirements and the submitting of documents to schools such as birth certificates and medical records.
“We should not be making the lives of children who are experiencing homelessness any more difficult,” Farnese said. “By raising awareness, we are shining a spotlight on this issue, but every day of the year we should be working to protect children experiencing homelessness.”