Lawmakers introduce LGBT-inclusive runaway, homeless youth act


WASHINGTON — U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.) on Thursday introduced legislation supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender runaway and homeless youth.

The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), last reauthorized in 2008 as the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act, is up for reauthorization this year, but the legislation currently omits language relating to LGBT youth.

The proposed LGBT-inclusive Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act (RHYIA) would help ensure that LGBT youth are not discriminated against and that grant recipients have the cultural competency to effectively serve these youth.

In addition, RHYIA would take steps necessary to provide family support services for those struggling with the sexual orientation or gender identity of youth in their families.

“I ran away from home when I was an adolescent,” said Rep. Moore. “It was the first and last time. Living on the streets is a difficult and dangerous experience – one that no child should have to endure. Unfortunately, homelessness is the reality for hundreds of thousands of youth each year.”

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According to some studies, Moore said, LGBT youth account for up to 40 percent of all homeless youth.

“Homelessness is one of the most pressing matters affecting LGBT youth,” said. Pocan. “Young people in the LGBT community are disproportionately at-risk for homelessness, often as a result of the rejection, discrimination, or violence they face simply for being themselves.”

“We have a moral responsibility to ensure that all of our youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, have access to life-saving services and safe, welcoming places to stay,” he said.

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