(House of Representatives - July 11, 2007)

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[Pages H7566-H7568]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to 
the resolution (H. Res. 527) recognizing the month of November as 
``National Homeless Youth Awareness Month''.
  The Clerk read the title of the resolution.
  The text of the resolution is as follows:

                              H. Res. 527

       Whereas an estimated 1,300,000 to 2,800,000 youths in the 
     United States are homeless for at least one night each year, 
     with many staying on the streets or in emergency shelters;
       Whereas homeless youth are typically too poor to secure 
     basic needs, are often unable to access adequate medical or 
     mental health care, and are often unaware of supportive 
     services that are available;
       Whereas an average of 13 homeless youth die each day due to 
     physical assault, illness, or suicide;
       Whereas some homeless youth are expelled from their homes 
     or run away after physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by 
     their parents or guardians, or are separated from their 
     parents through death or divorce;
       Whereas other youth become homeless due to a lack of 
     financial and housing resources as they exit juvenile 
     corrections or foster care, including 25 percent of foster 
     youth who experience homelessness within two to four years 
     after exiting foster care;
       Whereas awareness of the tragedy of youth homelessness and 
     its causes should be heightened to better coordinate current 
     programs with the many families, businesses, law enforcement 
     agencies, schools, and community and faith-based 
     organizations working to help youth remain off the streets; 
       Whereas November would be an appropriate month to recognize 
     as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month: Now, therefore, 
     be it
       Resolved,  That the House of Representatives--
       (1) supports helping vulnerable youth through current 
     programs authorized under title IV of the Social Security 
       (2) encourages the promotion through such programs of 
     assistance for especially foster youth in staying off the 
     streets, staying in school, and obtaining their high school 
     diplomas and further education and training;
       (3) applauds the initiative of public and private 
     organizations and individuals dedicated to helping these 
     programs prevent homelessness among youth, and provide aid 
     when prevention fails; and
       (4) should recognize ``National Homeless Youth Awareness 
     Month'' to support and further encourage such efforts.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Washington (Mr. McDermott) and the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Weller) 
each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Washington.
  Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
  Mr. Speaker, as we walk around our hometowns and cities, who thinks 
about the young people we pass hanging around in front of a store or a 
park or street corner? Some people simply avert their eyes and walk a 
bit faster, focusing on something else. Others, they quickly step by 
and try to get by them.
  Can we tell which of them are begging, borrowing or stealing to eat? 
Do we stop and consider if these kids are selling drugs or their own 
bodies in order to buy food or pay for shelter?
  Too few of us are willing to ask whether these young people might be 
homeless, and the fact is too many of them are homeless on the streets 
of our hometowns. As many as 2.8 million kids are homeless right now, 
right in front of our eyes, if we choose to look and see.
  Some of these homeless kids are fleeing an unsafe home. Others are 
running from a child welfare system that fails them too frequently. And 
others are on the street for a myriad of other reasons. Whatever the 
reason, they are alone, afraid and vulnerable, unsure where to turn for 
help or to whom they can trust.
  Sometimes help arrives too late. On an average, 13 homeless youth die 
every day from assault, suicide or sickness. It happens in our 
hometowns across America, and we need to take a stand. We can be the 
lifeline that pulls these young people back from the brink.
  The Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee is in the process 
of conducting hearings on the ways America can ensure that vulnerable 
children look to us for help instead of to the streets where the 
pushers and pimps profit on our inadequacy in protecting these 
vulnerable youngsters. Federal resources like the Social Security Block 
Grant; title IV of the Social Security Act; and moneys provided under 
the Runaway, Homeless and Missing Children Protection Act do help 
vulnerable and homeless children. But our resources are falling short. 
It is like standing on the shore with a lifeline that only reaches 25 
feet when the person drowning is 50 feet from shore. We are coming up 
short in spite of our best intentions.
  The Federal Government should be doing more to prevent youth 
homelessness and provide a pathway towards self-sufficiency when 
children fall through the cracks. We can do a better job of partnering 
with State and local governments, nonprofits and faith-based 
organizations to provide assistance to vulnerable families and youth.
  Imagine you are in the foster care system, and suddenly you are 18 
and you are out of the system. You are on your own. You didn't have 
parents. You didn't have a family. That is why you were in foster care. 
And suddenly we throw these kids into adult life. In many cases, they 
wind up homeless.
  In addition to meaningful reforms in Federal programs, I think the 
House of Representatives can also empower private and public 
organizations, citizens who employ their talent and compassion to 
prevent youth homelessness and provide help to homeless youth when 
prevention fails.
  Mr. Speaker, the resolution before us, House Resolution 527, would 
say that, for 1 month out of the year, America is going to recognize 
that youth homelessness is an important challenge that we must face as 
a Nation. More importantly, it will say to every homeless young person 
that you are not alone anymore. The People's House sees you, and we 
intend to help. Organizations like Stand Up For Kids, which coordinates 
a nationwide effort to scour the streets searching for kids and 
providing resources for them, is one inspiration behind this measure. 
But it is the kids that should remind us of our duty to provide for and 
protect American youth and to pass this resolution.
  Let this be the last day that we walk along the streets of our 
hometowns and not see the young people who are homeless young 
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. WELLER of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  Last month, Representative McDermott and I, along with eight of our 
House colleagues on both sides of the aisle, introduced a resolution to 
designate November as ``National Homeless Youth Awareness Month.'' This 
action followed a hearing on ``disconnected youth'' held by the 
Committee on Ways and Means Income Security and Family Support 
Subcommittee, on which I serve as ranking member.
  Disconnected young people include young people who often drop out of 
school, don't work and wind up on the streets. These young people may 
have family conflict issues, may experience abuse and neglect, or may 
be or have been in the past involved in the foster care system. 
Research completed by the University of Chicago suggests there were 
nearly 25,000 homeless youth in my home State of Illinois in 2004, 
including 6,353 in the northern Illinois region where the congressional 
district I represent is located.
  Despite an infusion of millions of dollars in Federal assistance and 
dedicated interests of many adults, too many children today are 
troubled, disconnected from their families and others who would like to 
help and, unfortunately, wind up on streets. Federal initiatives such 
as the Runaway and

[[Page H7567]]

Homeless Youth program, the Education for Homeless Children and Youth 
program, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Discretionary 
Grants program, and the Chafee Foster Care Independence program have 
been directed at these problems in recent years.
  Yet better serving these children and preventing more youth from 
winding up on the streets will require a better use and coordination of 
current program funds. We also need to recognize, as one witness at our 
subcommittee's recent hearing put it, that ``strengthening families is 
the best way to prevent the suffering and social disconnection among 
our young people.''
  Even as we applaud those young people, including foster youth, who 
overcome tremendous challenges to succeed in school and beyond, it is 
hard to overstate the importance of strong families to the raising of 
young people who grow up to be productive adults.
  Last year in the Deficit Reduction Act, we included specific funds to 
support private groups that work to strengthen families and promote 
healthy marriage, which is the foundation for raising healthy children. 
I am eager to see how these efforts pay off, including by reducing the 
turmoil in homes that result in too many children ending up on the 
  We must also acknowledge that kids are connected, and especially as 
they get older, through their schools. That really means through their 
circle of friends, teachers, coaches and other mentors they rely on as 
they become more independent and develop the habits and skills needed 
for life on their own. Kids in foster care already have suffered the 
trauma of being removed from their parents. In addition to being 
bounced from home to home, many foster children suffer too from being 
bounced from school to school. Studies show high school students who 
change schools even once are less than half as likely to graduate as 
those who do not change schools. So it is no wonder that there is ``a 
20 percentage point difference between the high school graduation rates 
of foster youth and their peers,'' according to the Kids Count 
  At our subcommittee hearing, we also heard from Representative 
Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. She and her husband have helped raised 
23 foster children, and she discussed the importance of achieving 
stability in their lives and especially stability at home and at 
  In addressing the issue of youth homelessness, we should start by 
doing whatever we can to ensure that young people in the foster care 
system complete at least high school. That will vastly improve their 
chances of getting a decent job and supporting themselves. One way to 
do that would be to provide more youth in foster care the opportunity 
to stay better connected to their schools, including by remaining in a 
single school whenever possible. That might mean offering scholarships 
so that those in private schools can stay in that school or so those 
who might benefit from private school could do so. Or it could involve 
something as simple as bus vouchers so kids can continue going to their 
current public or private school even if they are sent to live in a 
foster home across town. Such efforts will increase the chances for 
foster youth to graduate and can create the foundation for a productive 
and happy life that is the American Dream. That will also mean far 
fewer kids winding up on the streets, as is the goal of this resolution 
introduced today. We should all support that.
  And I urge all Members to support this bipartisan resolution.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and 
I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. WELLER of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the 
gentlewoman from Minnesota (Mrs. Bachmann), a leader on this issue.
  Mrs. BACHMANN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Illinois for 
yielding, and I honor and commend both the gentleman from Illinois and 
his counterpart for this important legislation.
  And the gentleman is correct. My husband and I were privileged to be 
involved with raising 23 foster children. I am happy to report that 
each of them graduated from high school. They are launched into the 
world, and they are leading their lives. And, again, it was a privilege 
for me and my husband and also for our five biological children to be a 
part of their success story.
  Mr. Speaker, that is why I rise today in support of this very 
important bill because it recognizes the month of November as 
``National Homeless Youth Awareness Month.'' The problem of 
homelessness here in this country is a tragic one and we hope a 
preventable one, but the issue of homeless youth is especially 
  More than 2 million children and youth, Mr. Speaker, in our country 
are homeless for at least one night every year. It is almost impossible 
for many, not only just Minnesotans but for many Americans, to get 
their arms around that figure.
  Many of these children have suffered various forms of abuse, which is 
also difficult to understand, or maybe were just thrown out on the 
street by their families. While others have spent years moving from 
home to home to home in various foster care systems.
  In our own personal situation, we took in teenagers. We didn't take 
babies. And we were the last stop in a kid's life. Once they were 
placed in our home, that was it. We were their last stop. And it was 
our joy to be able to then launch them off into the world. I have a 
special interest in these latter cases because of our experience and 
because of the joys that we had in learning from these wonderful human 
  These children often came from unstable families. And once they are 
placed, unfortunately, we saw firsthand they tend to get lost in the 
shuffle of a new home. It is difficult when you are a foster child and 
you are placed in a new home. You are not sure what your place is. You 
are not sure how you belong. And especially when you are in a new 
school, you kind of sometimes feel like you are second class even if 
your foster parents love you and don't want you to feel that way.

                              {time}  1645

  Students often begin to feel as though no one really cares about 
them. And you know, Mr. Speaker, that's one thing my husband always 
said; we have to show these children that there is at least one adult 
in their life that's crazy about them. And if we can offer them that 
much, maybe that can be our part in their world.
  In some of the worst cases, these children may even experience more 
abuse in what should be a safe place in foster homes. Not all foster 
homes are perfect, unfortunately. And even in the best cases, once a 
foster child turns 18, which is true for all of our children, except 
one, they're removed from the system, removed from the foster home, and 
they are made to live on their own, even though many of them aren't 
ready. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, many children, I would say 
just from an anecdotal point of view, are less prepared than children 
who come from a biological home to be able to make it on their own when 
they're age 18.
  And so unfortunately, as a result, 25 percent of foster children 
leaving care experience homelessness within 4 years of leaving their 
foster home. Just think, 25 percent, one-fourth of all foster children, 
when they leave that foster home, become homeless. Regardless of their 
backgrounds, once they become homeless, many youth find then that they 
are unable to lift themselves out of that situation.
  While we can all kind of vaguely imagine what homelessness is like, I 
recently had the opportunity to hear the testimonies of two people who 
experienced homelessness, including a very courageous statement by the 
singer Jewel, absolutely lovely young woman, and her story was 
heartwrenching. She described how she had to wash her hair in a fast-
food bathroom and what it was like for her to watch people as they 
looked down on her as a homeless teenager. She described her inability 
to find adequate shelter or food, as well as the feeling of 
hopelessness that she felt while fending for herself on the streets.
  Despite these foster children's best efforts, continuing to go to 
school or finding a way to be able to hold a job becomes near close to 
impossible because they face a constant threat of illness, of violence, 
even worse things.

[[Page H7568]]

  What struck me the most about children who experience homelessness is 
that through everything they experienced, all they wanted is to just 
not be written off by people who saw them only as homeless kids and not 
as the people, the human beings that they really are and the potential 
that they had. They're good kids, Mr. Speaker, as I'm sure you would 
agree; they just have been dealt a bad hand.
  A child never deserves to be left in the street. Congress has to 
ensure that those who have been cast out will be cared for and will be 
given the chance to grow into successful adults. It's time that we shed 
light on the problem of homeless youth and children.
  This is an important bill. I ask my colleagues to join me in 
supporting this important legislation.
  Mr. WELLER of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my 

                             General Leave

  Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks 
and to include extraneous material on this resolution which we are now 
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Washington?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. PORTER. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H. Res. 527, 
which seeks to promote greater public awareness of effective homeless 
youth prevention programs and the need for safe and productive 
alternatives, resources, and support for youths in high-risk 
situations. This resolution designates November as ``National Homeless 
Youth Awareness Month.'' I'd like to thank the leadership for allowing 
this resolution to come to the House Floor as it highlights a very 
tragic and important issue.
  In the district that I represent in southern Nevada, Dr. Fred Preston 
of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, conducted homeless enumerations 
in 1999 and 2004. In 2004, Preston reported an estimate of 7,887 
homeless people, up from the 6,700 counted in a 1999 survey. A Nevada 
Partnership for Homeless Youth study released last year estimates that 
there are 1,700 homeless youths in the valley. According to figures 
provided by the Clark County Department of Family Services, 483 youth a 
month, on average, received placements at the temporary emergency 
``Child Haven'' facilities during 2005. That figure represents a 61.5 
percent increase in average monthly referrals since 2000. These 
astonishing statistics highlight the need for our support of those 
important programs that seek to prevent these types of incidents.
  Many of the conditions that lead young people to become homeless are 
preventable through interventions that can strengthen families and 
support youth in high-risk situations. Successful interventions are 
grounded in partnerships among families, community-based human service 
agencies, law enforcement agencies, schools, faith-based organizations, 
and businesses.
  Preventing young people from becoming homeless and supporting youth 
in high-risk situations is a family, community, and national concern. 
Please join me in encouraging all Americans to play a role in 
supporting the millions of young people who are homeless or who are at-
risk of being so each year. H. Res. 527 supports efforts to promote 
greater public awareness of effective homeless youth prevention 
programs and the need for safe and productive alternatives, resources, 
and support for youth in high-risk situations.
  Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.
  Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the 
gentleman from Washington (Mr. McDermott) that the House suspend the 
rules and agree to the resolution, H. Res. 527.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the 
rules were suspended and the resolution was agreed to.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.