The Runaway Homeless Youth Act

The Runaway Homeless Youth Act is the first federal petition for funding of homeless shelters, clinics and services for homeless youth under 21 years.

The RHYA was voted for by senate in the non budgetary year of 2006, the requested eight million dollars in funding will not be voted on until early spring of this year.

“This is a really important act, this will be the first time a bill of this kind has passed in Minnesota,” said Alex Nelson, staff member at the Bridge for Runaway Youth. The Bridge is one of many street outreach centers, drop-in centers, clinics, emergency shelter and transitional living programs depending on increased funding to continue serving Minnesota’s 22,470 homeless youth.

Without these services, youth seek survival on the streets where they are highly vulnerable to exploitation, dangerous, and illegal behavior. They can become cognitively frozen, states Bridge for Runaway Youth.

“We need to expand the amount of money we are spending, (on homeless youth) how much are we spending in other areas?” said Dr. Eric Meininger, staff doctor at Youth Link clinic. Youth Link, one of the few remaining clinics in Minnesota that serves the un-insured, has been operating one day a week after recent budget cuts resulting from the closing of all COOK clinics.

COOK operated a variety of clinics and health services for the uninsured and homeless around the state. “A number of clinics have run into this, clinics went bankrupt, they can no longer afford to serve un-insured, they run a budget deficit,” said Meininger.

“Everyone deserves a place to sleep and stay warm,” said Nelson. Shelters like the Bridge often turn away young people because they simply don’t have enough beds. “We are forced to continually turn them away. what are we saying to children when we deny them these basic needs?”

Khalid “Kay” Adam, a former homeless youth, said, ” Support of the RHYA shows me that my success in society is valued and encouraged.”

The majority of homeless youth come from foster care or juvenile justice systems. “Everything connects to a larger issue.young people who experience homelessness are cognitively frozen. Development stops,” said Nelson.

“Youth are critical to the survival of any society,” said Adam.

“The amount of money we are spending in Iraq is absurd; we need to care for the kids at home,” said Meininger.

The Bridge for Runaway Youth is one of over fifteen groups organizing for Rally Day at the capital on March first where they will try to gain support for the RHYA.

“The RHYA is important because it tells you society is given a chance, that people are expected to contribute to society,” said Kay.

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