The importance of policy work in breaking the cycle of young adult homelessness
If there’s one thing that affects every aspect of our lives, it’s policy. Governing everything from the way we move around our cities to the quality of the air we breathe, policies on the local, state, and federal levels establish rules and regulations by which we must all abide. Policy finds itself at the heart of important issues like income inequality, healthcare access, and climate change. Here at Breaktime, our policy focus is on the intersection of housing, employment, and financial security.
Let's consider the situation of young adults aged 18-24 experiencing homelessness in the US. One in 10 young adults experience homelessness each year in the US–and among these individuals, 75% are unemployed and 40% identify as LGBTQ+. Furthermore, 89% of all people experiencing homelessness are BIPOC. Based on these national figures, we can deduce that we have a serious homelessness crisis on our hands–one that disproportionately affects historically marginalized groups.
The beauty of policy is that it has the ability to be a positive change agent. Breaking the cycle of young adult homelessness is within our reach, and we can achieve this by passing meaningful legislation that will help these vulnerable populations find stable housing and become financially secure.
In Massachusetts, there are two bills in the State House that Breaktime is currently working to pass through state legislatures: the "Everyone Needs an ID Bill" and the "Homeless Bill of Rights" Bill. Data collected in 2021's Massachusetts Youth Count shows that 28% of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness identified as not having a state-issued ID or demonstrated difficulties in obtaining one. Further, the need for a bill of rights for those experiencing homelessness is becoming more necessary to combat the stigma towards homelessness, which affects thousands every year.
Everyone Needs an ID:
This bill ( H. 3388, H. 3360, and S. 2251) aims to provide a fee waiver for youth and adults experiencing homelessness who are looking to apply for Massachusetts state IDs. Many young adults cannot afford the application fee or provide the documentation required for obtaining a state-issued ID. This bill allows individuals experiencing homelessness to cut through unnecessary red tape, helping Breaktime’s Associates (those whom Breaktime serves) overcome obstacles and build a brighter future.
Moreover, state-issued IDs are essential for job applications, accessing services, enrolling in education programs, opening financial accounts—basically all tasks that are crucial to being able to establish job and financial security. Without the barrier of obtaining IDs, young adults can have a better chance of finding employment and long-term housing.
Homeless Bill of Rights:
The Homeless Bill of Rights (H.211 and S.112) outlines rights for individuals experiencing homelessness to prevent discrimination based on their housing status. It safeguards their basic rights to seek shelter and rest in public spaces, extends anti-discrimination protections, and repeals laws that criminalize homelessness.
Despite the increased prevalence of homelessness from economic hardship, unavailability of affordable housing, and a weakened social safety net, individuals experiencing it deserve the same protections as everyone else. S.1112 and H.211 offer a comprehensive approach to safeguarding these rights–ensuring the dignity, safety, and fair treatment of our most vulnerable citizens.
Why These Matter:
In order to truly put young adults first, we know that direct intervention services alone are not enough. At Breaktime, we advocate for specific policy measures based on what we learn from the community we serve. We focus on policies addressing homelessness and other systemic barriers to young adult success. Providing access to identification and protecting the rights of individuals experiencing homelessness are crucial steps toward addressing housing insecurity. Breaktime thus wholeheartedly supports these bills.
These bills matter to us, and they should matter to you too. Policy is an important instrument toward social change–essential to making our society a more equitable place for people experiencing homelessness. But to see these changes come to fruition, we need your support.
How You Can Help:
If you are interested in Breaktime’s mission and want to support our policy efforts, you can make a difference by actively supporting the swift passage of both of these bills. Look up and contact your state representatives and senators to voice your support for the "Everyone Needs an ID" and "Homeless Bill of Rights" Bills. Together, we can bring positive change to the lives of those in need.