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The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

AN ACT PROMOTING HOUSING AND SUPPORT SERVICES TO UNACCOMPANIED HOMELESS YOUTHS

         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.  Chapter 6A of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 16V the following 2 sections:-
         Section 16W.  (a) As used in this section and section 16X, the following words shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
         “Fixed, regular nighttime residence”, a dwelling at which a person resides on a regular basis that provides safe shelter, sufficient for meeting both the physical and psychological needs typically met in home environments; provided, however, that “fixed, regular nighttime residence” shall not include: (i) a publicly or privately-operated institutional shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations; (ii) transitional housing; (iii) 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 (iv) a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
         “Unaccompanied homeless youth”, a person 24 years of age or younger who is not in the physical custody or care of a parent or legal guardian and who lacks a fixed, regular nighttime residence; provided, however, that “unaccompanied homeless youth” shall not include a person incarcerated or otherwise detained under federal or state law.
         (b)  There shall be a commission within the executive office of health and human services for the purpose of studying and making recommendations relative to services for unaccompanied homeless youth, with the goal of providing 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: (i) an analysis of the barriers to serving unaccompanied homeless youth who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender; (ii) an analysis of the barriers to serving unaccompanied youth under 18 years of age; (iii) an assessment of the impact of mandated reporting requirements on unaccompanied homeless youths’ access to services; (iv) the commonwealth’s ability to identify and connect with unaccompanied homeless youth; and (v) recommendations to reduce identified barriers to serving this population. The commission, in formulating its recommendations, shall take into account the best practices and policies in other states and jurisdictions.
         The commission shall include: the secretary of health and human services or a designee, who shall serve as chair; the commissioner of children and families or a designee; the commissioner of elementary and secondary education or a designee; the commissioner of public health or a designee; the commissioner of mental health or a designee; the director of Medicaid or a designee; the commissioner of transitional assistance or a designee; the undersecretary for housing and community development or a designee; the commissioner of youth services or a designee; the senate and house chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities; 1 member of the senate; 1 member of the house of representatives; 1 member who shall be appointed by the house minority leader; 1 member who shall be appointed by the senate minority leader; 3 youths who have experienced homelessness who shall be appointed by the office of the child advocate; 3 direct service providers who work with unaccompanied homeless youths who shall be appointed by the governor; and 1 representative from each of the following organizations: the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, Inc.; the Massachusetts Task Force on Youth Aging Out of DCF Care; the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Inc.; MassEquality Org, the Campaign for Equality, Inc.; the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, Inc.; the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Inc. and the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth. Nongovernmental members shall serve for 2-year terms and may be reappointed.
         The commission shall submit an annual report by December 31 to the governor, the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate, the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities and the office of the child advocate. The report shall include, but not be limited to, the commission’s findings and any recommendations for regulatory or legislative action, with a timeline for implementation, cost estimates and finance mechanisms, and shall detail the extent of homelessness among unaccompanied homeless youth in the commonwealth and the progress made toward implementing the commission’s recommendations and any other efforts to address the needs of this population.
         Section 16X.  (a) Subject to appropriation or third party reimbursement, 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 youths in urban, suburban and rural areas. In entering into such contracts, the executive office of health and human services shall take into consideration the recommendations of the commission on unaccompanied homeless youth established in section 16W on identifying, connecting and serving unaccompanied homeless youth, in general, and unaccompanied homeless youth under the age of 18 and youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, in particular. Contracts authorized in this section shall include housing services for unaccompanied homeless youth which may include, but shall not be limited to: emergency shelter; kinship home placements; short-term housing; and transition to independent living programs. Programs shall provide any such unaccompanied homeless youth with stable out-of-home placement, help to reunite any such 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 may include, but shall not be 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.
         (b)  The executive office of health and human services shall monitor organizations awarded contracts under this section to ensure that appropriate and high-quality services are being delivered to unaccompanied homeless youth and shall collect common data and outcome measures from these organizations and agencies.  Data collected from the organizations and agencies, the incidence of unaccompanied youth homelessness in the commonwealth and the status of and any change in housing, residential stability, educational stability and outcomes and well-being of unaccompanied homeless youth shall be included in the annual report of the special commission on unaccompanied homeless youth pursuant to section 16W. 
         SECTION 2.  The appointed members of the commission established in section 16W of chapter 6A of the General Laws shall be appointed within 90 days after the effective date of this act.
         SECTION 3.  Section 208 of chapter 139 of the acts of 2012 is hereby repealed.

Approved, January 6, 2015.