By Herman Fogus
Bill to combat youth homelessness goes to House of Delegates
BALTIMORE– A new bill, meant to help older foster youths in danger of becoming homeless, is currently making its way through the Maryland General Assembly.
Ingrid Lofgren, a representative from the Homeless Persons Representation Project, introduced HB 439/SB 685 to a small crowd of churchgoers at the New Waverly United Methodist Church in Baltimore Wednesday night.
HB 439, which is currently in the House of Delegates, would require juvenile courts to make health insurance, public benefits and housing available to the youths for up to 12 months after being discharged from foster care.
The bill also would require the state’s social services departments to submit plans to promote housing and employment opportunities for foster youths, provide state-issued IDs and to advise them of opportunities to re-enter foster care under certain circumstances.
In her introductory proposal to the New Waverly congregants, Lofgren said, “This is a real problem. It’s a problem that disproportionately affects communities of color…we know that racial inequities dictate who is most affected by lack of access to affordable housing, and by lack of access to income.”
New Waverly’s pastor, the Rev. Kevin A. Slayton, Sr., publicly voiced his support for the bill and told the audience he would go to Annapolis to further support it.
According to documentation provided by Lofgren and New Waverly, 635 foster youth left foster care to live on their own last year in Maryland, and an increasing number of Maryland’s students became homeless in a five-year span from 2008 to 2012, when 14,691 children were counted.