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State Highlights

Some areas where Rhode Island has moved the needle relative to other states includes providing youth experiencing homelessness some contract rights while limiting their contact with the criminal justice system and providing protections for LGBTQ youth within key state programs.

Law & Policy

  • State law does not specifically criminalize running away.

Systems

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

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 Ocean State, with emphasis on the Law & Policy category. Laws authorizing comprehensive supports and services for youth experiencing homelessness, providing unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness the opportunity to seek legal independence and live independently, and addressing their educational needs 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.
  • Enact a state law that allows youth in need of supervision to receive services without court involvement.
  • Pass legislation that gives youth experiencing homelessness some contract rights.
  • 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

  • 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 Office of Homeless Youth Services - that focuses solely on designing, implementing, and evaluating youth homelessness programs.

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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