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State Highlights

Some areas where Pennsylvania has moved the needle relative to other states includes decriminalizing youth homelessness, providing youth experiencing homelessness some contract rights, and maintaining a state plan to prevent and end homelessness.

Law & Policy

  • 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 youth experiencing homelessness some contract rights.
  • State allows unaccompanied youth under 18 to apply for health insurance coverage on their own.

Systems

  • There is a current state plan to end homelessness that contains a youth-specific strategy component.

Environment

  • The state has banned conversion therapy for minors on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
  • The state promotes safe and inclusive environments in child welfare and 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 Garden State, with emphasis on the Law & Policy category. Enacting and funding a state law similar to the federal RHYA and implementing a coordinated state government response to youth homelessness should be prioritized.

Law & Policy

  • Enact and fund a state law similar to the federal RHYA to provide key intervention and emergency services for youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Implement a grievance process for students experiencing homelessness that complies with federal law.

Systems

  • As part of the state plan to prevent and end youth homelessness, include a strategy to address homelessness among LGBTQ youth.
  • Create a state entity - such as an Office of Homeless Youth Services - that focuses solely on designing, implementing, and evaluating youth homelessness programs.
  • Create an Interagency Council on Homelessness that mirrors the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), providing a multi-sectoral approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness.

Environment

  • Organize and maintain a self-governing youth action board or council to inform youth homelessness policy within the state.
  • 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.
  • Promote safe and inclusive environments in runaway and homeless youth programs by providing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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