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State Highlights

Some areas where Colorado has moved the needle relative to other states includes authorizing comprehensive supports and services for youth experiencing homelessness, preventing their contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems, elevating the voices of youth who have experienced homelessness by partnering with them throughout policy development, and promoting safety and inclusion by providing protections for LGBTQ youth within key state programs.

Law & Policy

  • State legislation does not criminally punish youth who run away.
  • State law allows youth in need of supervision to receive services without court involvement.
  • State law does not specifically criminalize running away.
  • State law provides contract rights for youth experiencing homelessness.
  • State has RHY legislation similar to the federal Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) that provides funding for emergency services and other supports to prevent and end youth homelessness.

Systems

  • The state has created an entity - an Office of Homeless Youth Services -  that focuses solely on designing, implementing, and evaluating youth homelessness programs.
  • There is a state interagency council on homelessness.

Environment

  • The state maintains a self-governing youth action board or council that informs youth homelessness policy.
  • The state promotes safe and inclusive environments in juvenile justice programs by providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Recommendations for Improvement

There is room for improvement throughout the metrics for the Centennial State, with emphasis on the Environment category. Addressing the educational needs of youth experiencing homelessness and protecting the rights and interests of vulnerable youth experiencing homelessness, including LGBTQ youth, should be prioritized.

Law & Policy

  • Implement a grievance process for students experiencing homelessness that complies with federal law
  • Allow unaccompanied youth under 18 to apply for health insurance coverage on their own

Systems

  • Update the current state plan to end youth homelessness to provide a specific strategies towards preventing and ending LGBTQ youth homelessness.

Environment

  • Require training about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, healthy sexual development, or issues specific to LGBTQ youth for staff working in runaway and homeless youth systems.
  • Ban controversial and ineffective service provision that includes conversion therapy.
  • Promote safe and inclusive environments in child welfare and runaway and homeless youth programs by providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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