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Robert S.
Democrat VA 3

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  • Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act of 2015

    by Representative Robert C. "Bobby" Scott

    Posted on 2015-01-26

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    SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 468, the Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act of 2015.

    I am honored to join my colleagues, the gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Heck), the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Walberg), and the chairman of the full committee, Mr. Kline, and appreciate their leadership on this important issue.

    Our bill makes important changes in the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, so that victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking can get more of the help that they need. We know that trafficking and youth homelessness are often affecting the same populations.

    Young people that have run away or are homeless are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking, and programs targeted towards the runaway and homeless youth should be simultaneously equipped to support victims of trafficking when there is such an overlap.

    Research consistently confirms the correlation between running away and becoming exploited through prostitution. For example, according to a 2006 FBI Uniform Crime Report, girls who run away from their homes, group homes, foster homes, or treatment centers are at high risk of being targeted by a trafficker or becoming exploited.

    Street outreach programs were created to provide services to runaway and homeless and street youth who have been subjected to or are at risk of being subjected to sexual abuse. Every year, 25,000 of these young people find shelter as a result of these programs.

    The legislation being considered today ensures that street outreach programs can rely on funding already available through the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. This allows the Department of Health and Human Services to provide street-based services such as individual assessments, treatment, counseling, or other shelter for runaway and homeless youth who are also victims of trafficking.

    Additionally, the bill authorizes States, organizations, and other entities to use runaway and homeless youth research grants for staff training to work with these young victims. Such additional training will allow service providers to successfully address the behavioral and emotional effects of the abuse and assault that these victims endure.

    Our bill also enhances training programs so that staff will be able to recognize and respond to the unique needs of trafficking victims. This is a small but important change, one necessary to improve services available.

    Updating the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act with this legislation is an important first step, but it is also important for Congress to consider reauthorizing the entire act, which expired last year.

    {time} 1630 In the 113th Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bipartisan reauthorization bill that would provide other critical support to runaway and homeless youth, including extending time for safe and appropriate shelter, establishing performance standards for assistance programs, strengthening data collection, and ensuring that adequate resources for all runaway and homeless youths are available.

    It is my hope that the House can continue the spirit of bipartisanship and comprehensively update the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. Our Nation's most vulnerable youth need us to come together and work together on their behalf.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Speaker, I encourage all of my colleagues to support the legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.

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