Calling it a bill that would "change lives", District 51B Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL), of Eagan, introduced the Homeless Youth Act on Tuesday during a packed press conference at the Minnesota State Capitol.
The proposed bill, which was referred to the Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy Committee, would appropriate $8 million over the next biennium for the fight against homelessness among Minnesota youth. The money, which would be taken from the state's general fund, could be used to assist homeless youth in obtaining food, medical care, counseling, education, training and a variety of other services.
The bill is an update of a similar measure championed by District 61 Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL) and passed in 2007. Despite its passage, the measure never received full funding from the state, Dibble said at the press conference. Dibble is listed as the author of a companion bill in the Minnesota Senate.
"Anybody who ran from their car to this warm building knows what the imperative is," Halverson said, referencing the risks winter weather can pose to the homeless. "We’re going to change lives, we're going to put kids on a path from risk to prosperity."
Halverson was joined at the conference by Dibble and bill supporter District 57 Sen. Greg Clausen (DFL), who represents portions of Apple Valley, Lakeville and Rosemount. Representatives from a handful of nonprofits, including the Wilder Foundation, Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota also spoke.
More than 2,000 Minnesota youth are homeless on any given night, according to Maykao Hang, the CEO of the Wilder Foundation, a nonprofit human services organization that tracks homeless statistics. In a 3-year span, the number of homeless youth has increased 46 percent—and 40 percent of all homeless youth are located in greater Minnesota, Hang said
“This is not an issue for the inner city, this is an issue of our state," said Clausen, a member of the Dakota County Affordable Housing Coalition. "Somebody else let these young people down, and we need to fix that."