In early November, TNOYS organized and hosted a training to help providers and advocates better understand the rights of homeless youth. Approximately 40 people from state agencies, school districts, and youth services providers attended the half-day workshop, “Understanding Youth Rights: Helping providers navigate laws and policies affecting unaccompanied homeless youth.”
Attorneys and program directors who are subject matter experts in public education, housing rights, and accessing public benefits provided attendees with useful and timely information to better serve youth. To remind attendees that it is the youth who will benefit most from understanding their rights, three youth who previously experienced homeless shared stories from their life and how they came to achieve greater stability in their life, including now having a place to call home.
The participating presenters included: Nekesha Phoenix, Austin Tenants’ Council’s Fair Housing Program; Jeanne Stamp, Texas Homeless Education Office; Meredith Shytles-Parekh, Disability Rights Texas; Gabriella McDonald, Texas Appleseed-Homeless Youth Handbook Project; and, Mary Christine Reed, Texas Foster Youth Justice Project at RioGrande Legal Aid. At the conclusion of the presentation, Erin Whelan, Director of LifeWorks’ Housing & Homeless Services, facilitated a question and answer session from attendees.
The training was made possible through a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation. As part of the grant, TNOYS will be publishing in January 2016 an on-line booklet that summarizes key laws and regulations about the rights of homeless youth.
The booklet begins and ends with a focus on adult-youth collaboration. The first two chapters identify how providers can empower the youth voice and help them understand their rights and responsibilities. The third chapter provides information that will help youth workers appreciate and understand the cultural diversity among homeless youth. The last chapter identifies the benefits of collaborative relationships between youth service agencies and law enforcement and juvenile justice systems. The remain chapters of the booklet identify the major laws and regulations about: (1) emergency shelter/housing (2) emancipation (3) public education, (4) medical treatment, and (5) eligibility for state and federal benefits. Each section of the booklet contains answers to the most frequently asked questions related to each subject and offers general guidelines for most situations. Also included are definitions of common terms and phrases used in the law and by government organizations. The booklet will be released in February 2016.
TNOYS would like to thank all the presenters for donating their time to this training and to LifeWorks for hosting the event!
Event Resources: Understanding Youths’ Rights, December 2nd 2015
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