Homelessness is one of the threads that runs through many of Texas Appleseed’s projects, including juvenile and criminal justice reform, foster care reform, and our work of dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline. According to the National Center for Homeless Education, Texas has approximately 10% of the country’s homeless youth and children. During the 2014-2015 school year, Texas school districts identified 113,294 students as homeless — and that is a conservative number.
Youth who are homeless often bounce among school districts as their family looks for housing. Youth who are escaping abusive parents or guardians often go “underground” to avoid being found. In 2015, Texas Appleseed began to investigate the following questions: What are homeless minors’ rights? Who is responsible for them if all statutory authorities have failed them? What role do schools and the court system play in their welfare? How can Texas work to prevent youth from becoming homeless?
We now have some answers to many of those questions and are sharing them with youth experiencing homelessness and the agencies that serve them. We are also crafting policy solutions that help homeless youth find stable housing and, ultimately, change the circumstances that cause youth to be homeless in the first place.
- The Texas Homeless Youth Handbook: Texas Appleseed partnered with attorneys from Weatherford and the law firm Baker & McKenzie, who donated a significant portion of pro bono time, to create the Homeless Youth Handbook, which will be available Dec. 8, 2016 here. This online resource, which will also be available in print, provides homeless youth with Texas-specific knowledge concerning their rights, responsibilities, and available resources related to every major aspect of their lives, including education, employment, health, housing, parenting, and other major topics.
- 2017 Homeless Youth Policy Report: In 2016, Texas Appleseed staff, volunteers, and over 30 pro bono attorneys and summer associates from Vinson & Elkins LLP interviewed hundreds of individuals, including youth experiencing homelessness, to identify gaps where critical Texas systems are failing to serve these youth. The report will highlight these stories and will also include policy recommendations aimed at closing those gaps. We will release the report in early 2017, in anticipation of the state legislative session.