Young Adult Leaders Advocate at State House for End to Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness

For Immediate Release
October 29, 2015

For more information contact:
Caitlin Golden (617) 367- 6447 ext. 28
cgolden@mhsa.net
Kelly Turley (781) 595-7570 ext. 17
kelly@mahomeless.org

YOUNG ADULT LEADERS ADVOCATE AT STATE HOUSE FOR END TO UNACCOMPANIED YOUTH HOMELESSNESS

BOSTON – In partnership with the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, the young adult leaders of the Leadership Development Program (LDP) of the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (MHSA) held Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Advocacy Day at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, October 29, 2015. Legislators and state leaders were invited to listen to young adults as they shared stories of their personal experiences with homelessness and their perspectives about what must be done to end youth homelessness. Young adults and advocates also shared updates on current state initiatives to address youth homelessness. The event was hosted by Representative Jim O’Day, Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler, Representative Kay Khan, and Senator Jason Lewis.

MHSA’s LDP supports participants who have experienced homelessness in strengthening their skills as advocates and leaders. The program encourages participants to reflect on homelessness in a social justice framework and trains participants to share their personal stories in order to forge connections with a diverse range of community members and stakeholders. LDP participants complete eight weeks of classes which focus upon storytelling, social justice, public policy, and networking/communication.

“I want my peers to have a chance to share their story, and to see their struggles as part of their past so that they can move forward,” reflected Kitty Zen, Co-Facilitator of the LDP and a past graduate.

“At 23, I am still homeless, but I am here trying to make a difference,” said Lauren Leonardis, an LDP graduate and one of the young adult advocates who spoke at today’s event. “If there had been more prevention programs in place and more support for homeless youth to get housing, my family’s story could have been a lot different.”

“Since late 2010, I have been working with the Coalition and others on this campaign to elevate the needs of unaccompanied youth and work towards solutions,” said State Representative Jim O’Day (D-West Boylston). “Building upon the momentum of the youth homelessness bill becoming law earlier this year, the legislature was successful in advocating for the inclusion of a line item specific for unaccompanied homeless youth housing and support services funded at $2 million in the FY16 budget. Now the time has come for us to focus on the development of a strong plan of action, specific to the needs of this 24 and under population, in order to make sure the $2 million we fought so hard to get is actually implemented in the best and most effective way possible, before the fiscal year deadline of July 1st. We must continue to push our ongoing efforts forward and we cannot rest until safe housing and support services are an actual and accessible reality for unaccompanied and homeless youth across our Commonwealth.”

"The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless is thrilled to be working with the Leadership Development Program participants, Representative O'Day, Senate Majority Leader Chandler, Representative Khan, and Senator Lewis to elevate the voices and recommendations of youth experiencing homelessness,” said Kelly Turley, Director of Legislative Advocacy at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. “We have worked hard for the past five years to bring the needs of youth without homes to the forefront, and now it is time for the Commonwealth to take action to create youth-focused, youth-driven housing and services. We look forward to continuing to partner with youth, providers, Legislators, and members of the Administration in fully implementing this year's unaccompanied youth homelessness law to make inroads together toward ending youth homelessness."

“MHSA is committed to creating opportunities for young adults who have experienced homelessness to share their voices with policymakers and the broader community,” said Caitlin Golden, MHSA Director of Public Relations & Community Engagement. “Only by listening to their voices can we take steps toward creating age-appropriate responses that address the unique needs of young adults experiencing homelessness.”

After the briefing in the House Members Lounge, the young adult advocates met with House Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing to share their perspectives on ways to address youth homelessness.

The Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (MHSA) is a nonprofit public policy advocacy organization with the mission of ending homelessness in the Commonwealth. MHSA’s membership includes 100 community-based agencies statewide. For more information, visit www.mhsa.net.

The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless (the Coalition) is a statewide nonprofit organization with the mission to eradicate poverty and homelessness from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, while serving as a voice along with people experiencing homelessness in their struggle for decent housing, adequate income, and accessible services. For more information, please visit www.mahomeless.org.

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For more information about this event, please contact Caitlin Golden at (617) 367-6447 ext. 28 or cgolden@mhsa.net, or Kelly Turley at (781) 595-7570 ext. 17 or kelly@mahomeless.org.