Program Areas - Advocacy

Runaway and Homeless Youth Act


The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) is the only federal law that provides vital services to homeless youth. It is due for reauthorization this year and the True Colors Fund is helping lead an effort to ensure Congress acts fast.

RHYA funds three major programs that provide services to homeless youth:

Street Outreach Programs

Street Outreach Program: Provides funds to private and nonprofit agencies performing outreach efforts designed to move youth off the streets.
Impacted 800,000 young people last year. 


Basic Center Programs

Basic Center Program: Provides temporary shelter, family reunification services, counseling, food, clothing, and aftercare services.
Served more than 40,000 youth last year.


Transitional Living Program

Transitional Living Program: Provides longer term housing with supportive services to homeless youth ages 16 to 21 for up to 18 months.
Served more than 40,000 youth last year.



In order to continue the fight against youth homelessness, and to ensure homeless youth receive vital services, RHYA must be reauthorized. Currently, RHYA makes no mention of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, even though these groups make up a disproportionately large number of homeless youth. In fact, while LGBT youth comprise only five to seven percent of our total youth population, they comprise up to 40 percent of all homeless youth in America.

40 percent of homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender

Additionally, funding for RHYA has remained flat since 2010. As a result, the total number of youth served in all three programs has decreased while the number of youth turned away for services continues to increase. Reauthorization must ensure RHYA is sufficiently funded so that all youth who need services can obtain them and programs aimed at preventing youth homelessness can continue.  Without RHY services, youth may be more likely to enter into the juvenile justice system, which costs states much more than RHY shelter or transitional living programs.  The American Correctional Association estimates that, on average, it costs states $240.99 per day – $87,961 per year for every youth in a juvenile facility.  In FY 2008 the average cost of serving youth in a RHYA basic center was $1,254.  For transitional living programs, the annual cost per youth was $14,726.



The deck is stacked against LGBT youth. LGBT youth are often rejected by their families simply because of who they are.  In addition to the trauma of family rejection, LGBT youth are far more likely than their straight peers to suffer from depression, be bullied in school, attempt suicide, use drugs, and experience or witness extreme forms of violence. When LGBT youth are homeless these issues are only exacerbated. Itís time to put an end to youth homelessness, and an end to the epidemic that is gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth homelessness.




Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act

Recently, the True Colors Fund’s Forty to None Project teamed up with U.S. Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) to develop the Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act (Inclusion Act). This proposed legislation would incorporate LGBT youth into RHYA by:

1. Prohibiting RHYA grant recipients from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression;
2. Ensuring that data on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression be collected from all youth who enter the RHY system;
3. Requiring RHYA grant applicants to demonstrate that they can and will serve LGBT youth in a culturally competent manner
4. Encouraging grant recipients to provide family assessment, intervention, and reunification services
5. Guaranteeing that the Family and Youth Service Bureau (FYSB) include information regarding the prevalence of LGBT youth homelessness in its report to Congress every five years

Federal Funding For Homeless Youth 

In his 2014 budget, President Obama proposed two important revisions to RHYA:

1. An increase of $3 million to study the incidence and prevalence of youth homelessness
2. The reassignment of federal demonstration grant money to test intervention strategies for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) youth



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