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Alison Brauner: Bill addresses tragedy of unaccompanied youth

To the editor:

Homelessness is an issue which affects the lives of tens of thousands of people across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. But one narrative of homelessness that people may be less familiar with is the plight of unaccompanied youth.

Unaccompanied youth are young people who are living on the street, couch surfing, or living in shelter without their parents or legal guardians. These are people 24 and younger, many under the age of 18, who are homeless and on their own. It is estimated there are more than 6,000 unaccompanied youth in Massachusetts’ high schools. No young person trying to finish high school and pursue higher education, or successfully transition into adulthood, should experience the tragedy of homelessness.

As the number of unaccompanied youth rises, our need for social services and adequate housing becomes more urgent. To date, there are virtually no supportive services or safe housing to address the needs of unaccompanied youth in many parts of the state. This has to change.

Fortunately change is under way. On July 16, a major piece of legislation to begin addressing the problem of youth homelessness in Massachusetts, House Bill 135, will be up for a hearing at the Statehouse. This bill would create social services for these youth, building up the work of the Massachusetts Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth. All are invited to this hearing to give testimony in support of this bill, or stand in the room as a sign of solidarity.

We need to get our legislators and representatives on board. If you can’t attend the hearing, consider calling your local representatives and encouraging them to convey their support of this bill and ask them to formally sign on.

Alison Brauner

Northampton

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