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HOUSE DOCKET, NO.                 FILED ON: 12/7/2011

HOUSE  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  No. 3838

 


The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
 

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In the Year Two Thousand Eleven

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An Act providing housing and support services for unaccompanied homeless youth.
 

              Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
 

              SECTION 1.  (1) Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services shall enter into performance-based contracts with organizations and agencies to provide housing and support services to address the needs of unaccompanied homeless youth.  Programs funded under this Act shall provide a continuum of housing options for this population provided on a voluntary basis in conjunction with wraparound support services, which shall include but not be limited to: emergency shelter, “kinship” home placements, short term housing and “Transition to Independent Living” programs. The funded programs shall provide unaccompanied homeless youth with a stable out-of-home placement and help to reunite the youth with the youth’s parent or legal guardian if family reunification is in the youth's best interest, and help to create educational and residential stability. Additional support services funded through these contracts may include but are not limited to: individual, family and group counseling; access to medical, dental and mental health care; education and employment services; case management, advocacy and referral services; independent living skills training; and provision of basic needs.

              (2) As used in this Act, "unaccompanied homeless youth" means a person 22 years of age or younger who is unaccompanied by a parent or guardian and is without shelter where appropriate care and supervision are available, whose parent or legal guardian is unable or unwilling to provide shelter and care or who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. "Fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence" means a dwelling at which a person resides on a regular basis that adequately provides safe shelter. "Fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence" does not include a publicly or privately operated institutional shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations; transitional housing; a temporary placement with a peer, friend, or family member who has not offered a permanent residence, residential lease or temporary lodging for more than 30 days; or a public or private place not designed for, nor ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings. "Homeless youth" does not include a person incarcerated or otherwise detained under federal or state law.

              (3) The Executive Office of Health and Human Services shall establish requirements and shall contract for programs that ensure that services, as specified by this Act, are provided to homeless youth in all urban, suburban and rural areas of the state in an appropriate and responsible manner. 

              (4) The Executive Office of Health and Human Services shall monitor organizations receiving funds under this Act to ensure that appropriate and high-quality services are being delivered to homeless youth, shall collect common data and outcome measures from these organizations, and shall file reports with the Clerks of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities, the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means and the Office of the Child Advocate by December 31 of each year regarding the data collected from the organizations, the incidence of youth homelessness in Massachusetts, and the status of and any change in housing, residential stability, educational stability and outcomes and well-being of homeless youth in the Commonwealth. 

              SECTION 2: Not withstanding any general or special law to the contrary, there shall be

              a special commission for the purpose of studying and making

              recommendations concerning services for unaccompanied homeless youth under

              twenty-two years of age with the goal of ensuring a comprehensive and effective

              response to the unique needs of this population.  The focus of the commission’s work

              shall include, but not be limited to, an analysis of the barriers to serving unaccompanied

              youth under eighteen years of age; an assessment of the impact of mandated reporting

              requirements on unaccompanied youths’ access to services and the state’s ability to

              identify and connect with unaccompanied youth; and recommendations to reduce

              identified barriers to serving this population, including but not limited to, extending the

              time for certain categories of mandated reporters to file reports and/or establishing

              special licensure provisions to allow service providers to serve homeless youth under

              eighteen years of age.  The commission, in formulating its recommendations, shall take

              account of best practices and policies in other states and jurisdictions.

              The commission shall include, The Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and

              Human Services, the Commissioners of the Departments of Children and Families,

              Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Health, Mental Health, MAHealth,

              Transitional Assistance and the Undersecretary of Housing and Community

              Development, two members of the Senate appointed by the Senate President, two

              members of the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House,

              three youth who have experienced homelessness, and a representative from each of

              the following organizations: Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Task Force on

              Youth aging Out of the Department of Children and Families Care, Massachusetts

              Appleseed Center for Law and Education, Mass Equality, Massachusetts Housing and

              Shelter Alliance and three persons to be named by the Governor.”

              The commission shall submit a report to the Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representative and the President of the Senate, the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities and the Office of the Child Advocate no later than 9 months after the passage of this Act setting forth the commission’s conclusions on how to improve access to services for unaccompanied homeless youth under 18 years of age, together with any recommendations for regulatory or legislative action with a timeline for implementation, cost estimates and finance mechanisms.  Thereafter, the commission submit a report annually by December 31 of each year to the Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representative and the President of the Senate, the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, the Clerks of the House of Representatives and the Senate and the Office of the Child Advocate detailing the extent of homelessness among unaccompanied youth within the Commonwealth and the progress made toward implementing the commission’s recommendations along with other efforts to address the needs of this population.

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