A highlight of the hearing was testimony from True Colors Fund co-founder Cyndi Lauper who spoke to the fact that a disproportionate number of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Seven percent of the overall youth population is LGBT, but as many as 40% of all homeless youth identify as LGBT.
“These kids come out and get thrown out – or they feel unsafe and run away. It’s unacceptable. No young person should be left without a home because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. They didn’t choose their identity and they are trying so hard to be brave – to survive.”
Ms. Lauper said.
“The singer, who reportedly ran away from home at the age of 17 after her stepfather allegedly threatened to rape her, said during the hearing that parents should practice tolerance with their children.”
“Successfully ending youth homelessness cannot be done with federal funds alone. It requires cooperation and coordination across federal agencies, at all different levels of government, and in partnership with philanthropic and non-profit organizations. To achieve this goal we must understand how HUD’s programs can be strengthened to better support homeless youth while operating within the unfortunately tight fiscal constraints that we face.”
Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) made the point that the lack of federal resources forces the government to create rules that distinguish individuals who are eligible.
“If we literally don’t put our money where our mouths are and expand the supply [of housing units], this demand is going to go up. You have to be realistic. If you say [youth] become a priority, with limited resources, other people will lose out unless we can put in resources. Senator Collins and I are confronting this issue of sequestration where the resources could be constrained so severely that it gets even harder and to harder to respond.”
The definition of homelessness was raised several times during the hearing. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) spoke in favor of her bill, the “Homeless Children and Youth Act,” S. 256, which would expand HUD’s definition of homelessness to include an additional 3.5 million people who are now doubled-up with others for economic reasons or are paying to live in hotels or motels.