As the 86th Texas Legislative Session winds down, we are excited to report that it has produced some important policy changes that will have a big impact for youth. TNOYS’ legislative agenda for this session addressed multiple issues, including increasing foster care reimbursement rates, strengthening the Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program for youth transitioning out of care, and much more. One area where we are excited to report some early wins is in the area of youth homelessness — TNOYS staff, member organizations, and young adults from our Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) have spent countless hours during the session visiting legislators and testifying at hearings on this issue and we are excited to see that hard work pay off.
“TNOYS owes a special thanks to our member organizations and YALC members that have been actively involved in helping to inform and advocate for TNOYS’ legislative agenda this session,” said Lauren Rose, TNOYS’ Director of Public Policy. “Having youth and providers share their perspectives and experiences directly with lawmakers makes a real difference in persuading them to make the kind of policy changes that will positively impact youth and those who serve them.”
New Funding for Homeless Youth
One of the biggest achievements so far has been the decision by the House Budget Conference Committee to add $3 million in new funding dedicated to supporting homeless youth through the Housing and Homeless Support Program (HHSP) at the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. This is an important move because there is currently no state funding earmarked specifically for serving young people experiencing homelessness. Recent research has shown that youth experiencing homelessness have unique needs that differ from those of their adult counterparts and they need specialized resources and support.
Click here to watch video of compelling testimony in support of this funding by Christine Gendron, TNOYS’ executive director; Leslie Bourne, executive director of TNOYS member organization Covenant House; Danielle Owens, Chief Program Officer of TNOYS member organization LifeWorks; and Franklin Fisher and Justin Hayward, youth with lived experience (relevant testimony begins at minute mark 4:20:26).
Prioritizing Youth Experiencing Homelessness
On May 22, HB 2564, a TNOYS priority bill, was passed out of the Senate and is on the way to the Governor’s desk. The bill ensures that the state prioritizes supporting homeless youth by including youth and young adults as a special population that TDHCA looks at when determining housing needs. It also strengthens the work of the Texas Interagency Council for the Homeless around youth homelessness by allowing the council to work with and seek guidance from organizations with expertise in and who work to support youth experiencing homelessness.
Addressing Disciplinary Actions Against Students in Foster Care and Experiencing Homelessness
A pair of bills, HB 692 and HB 811, will make a real difference in the lives of youth who are in foster care or experiencing homelessness. Often, these young people have circumstances that can make it difficult for them to succeed at school and disciplinary actions enacted by schools can create even more challenges. TNOYS and our Young Adult Leadership Council testified in particular about the harm that can be caused when homeless youth are subjected to out of school suspensions, which will now be prohibited for these students under the new legislation. Click here to learn more about this issue and the related experience of TNOYS’ Youth Specialist, Lyric Wardlow. Click here to watch testimony in support of HB 692 by Lauren Rose and Bryce Jackson, a member of TNOYS’ YALC (relevant testimony begins at minute mark 07:38). We are excited to see these important policy changes signed into law by the Governor!
Be on the lookout for our final recap of the 86th Texas Legislative Session, which will provide details on the final outcome for these bills and many others that will address a variety of issues important to youth and providers.