(Sacramento, CA) – Yesterday the State Auditor released a comprehensive report on policies that are used to identify and provide support to youth experiencing homelessness following a request by Assemblymembers James C. Ramos (D – Highland), David Chiu (D – San Francisco), and Luz Rivas (D - Arleta), made in February of this year.
“While the State Auditor’s report shows we have much work to do, I am hopeful this will frame our efforts in the legislature and in our communities,” said Assemblymember Ramos. “When we can communicate best practices at the state and local level to identify students experiencing homelessness and link those students and families with the resources they need, we can break the cycle of homelessness in the Inland Empire and the state. On the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, I established and co-chaired the Homeless Youth Task Force that created strategic initiatives to focus on chronically homeless youth. I would like to pursue an option that expands that task force statewide.”
“Student homelessness is not an issue that will simply go away if we pretend it isn’t happening,” said Assemblymember Chiu. “If students experiencing homelessness are not being identified, they are not getting access to the services they need to be successful. I am grateful for the State Auditor’s work to identify ways we can all do more to support students experiencing homelessness.”
“Our current system is systematically flawed and we are allowing our most at-risk youth, especially in communities of color, to slip through the cracks,” said Assemblymember Rivas. “I look forward to continue working with my colleagues and the Governor’s office when I reintroduce AB 16 in the upcoming year to better align my policy to the recommendations stemming from this audit. I want to thank my friends and colleagues, Assemblymember David Chiu, Assemblymember James Ramos, and SPI Tony Thurmond for partnering with me this past year to bring visibility to the hidden homeless population.”
The audit, titled “Youth Experiencing Homelessness: California’s Education System for K-12 Inadequately Identifies and Supports These Youth,” found that local educational agencies (LEAs) are not doing enough to identify and support homeless youth. This resulted in fewer students being recognized as experiencing homelessness, and thus fewer students getting connected to resources to alleviate their situation. Staff in each of the six LEAs audited were found to not be sufficiently trained to identify youth needing services. Only one LEA, San Bernardino City Unified School District, was actively distributing information about homelessness resources.
The request for audit stemmed from a finding that found one quarter of California schools report they have no homeless students. Under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, schools are required to identify students experiencing homelessness and connect them to resources. The purpose of the audit was to identify procedures and practices to identify and support homeless students created in compliance with state and federal law.
The California Department of Education was also found deficient in its approach and outreach to assist homeless youth. Of the nearly 2,300 LEAs in the state, the audit found that only 1 percent have their program monitored. The Department was also found to not sufficiently utilize data collected to identify youth experiencing homelessness and connect them to services.
The audit has had immediate impact, with San Bernardino City Unified School District making a variety of commitments to improve their practices and policies for identifying and supporting homeless students.
The audit provided recommendations for improvements from the legislature, LEAs and Department of Education.
- Require LEAs to distribute a housing questionnaire to all families and youth, annually or more, and follow federal laws and best practices.
- Ensure school staff are properly trained to provide services to youth experiencing homelessness.
- Require the Department of Education to monitor LEAs that are determined to be at greatest risk for under identifying youth experiencing homelessness and LEAs whose homeless education program policies are outdated.
- The six LEAs audited should ensure staff receive training in the McKinney-Vento Act to comply with federal law. Trainings should be done at least once annually.
- Five of the LEAs should actively distribute information regarding rights and services to youth experiencing homelessness at school and other areas these youth and families frequent. (San Bernardino City Unified School District has already implemented this program of outreach.)
Department of Education
- Department of Education should review the housing questionnaire and revise for best practices, and make all LEAs aware of such changes.
- Complete a staffing analysis to determine needs for additional staffing, and reallocate existing resources within the Department to fulfill those needs.
Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.
Assemblymember James Ramos secured $16 million in state funding for the 40th Assembly District in the 2019-2020 State Budget. Click here to read more.
For Immediate Release
Friday, November 8, 2019
Contact: Jeovana Sanchez Gonzalez (909) 476-5023