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This year, we’ve reformed the Index to focus on unhoused youth and young adults (YYA), aligning it with their experiences and policy needs. Shifting from harm reduction to transformative change, some jurisdictions may see lower scores than before. This is a deliberate strategy, not a setback. Lower scores should motivate, not discourage, jurisdictions. They present an opportunity to adopt policies that effectively tackle and prevent youth homelessness, fostering meaningful progress.
Minor Parents Exempt from TANF Activity Requirements
The jurisdiction’s TANF program exempts unaccompanied minor parents from activity requirements
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides financial assistance to families with children who are extremely low income. Depending on the state, families can receive a tiny amount of income as well as a variety of support services, including job training and placement, education, and childcare. However, states have a huge amount of freedom in how they spend federal TANF dollars and in most states, cash benefits are time limited and dependent on meeting extremely onerous program requirements. Enforcement of these requirements is notoriously racist.
In theory, all unaccompanied minors and all parenting youth and young adults should be able to access TANF benefits. In practice, homeless youth living apart from their families are routinely turned away by caseworkers who don’t understand these program rules. However, because of the flexibility of TANF dollars, there is an opportunity for jurisdictions to do better and opt into (or out of) federal options that maximize access for parenting youth and young adults.
|Type of Policy
|Minor parents are automatically exempt from activity requirements or there are good cause exemptions
|No law found or minor parents are exempt only when child is less than 12 weeks old
|Minor parents must participate in activity requirements
Cite: National Homelessness Law Center and True Colors United. "State Index on Youth Homelessness, Minor Parents Exempt from TANF Activity Requirements" https://youthstateindex.com/maps/minor-parents-exempt-from-tanf-activity-requirements/. Accessed: February 23, 2024.
- Minor Parents Exempt from the TANF Resident Requirement
- No TANF Time Limit
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Until we can finally realize an economic system that isn’t based on exploitation, access to income is a necessary part of survival for young people. Approximately 12% of children ages 14 to 17 and 20% of young adults ages 18 to 24 live in households earning or receiving less than $14,000 per year. With the average rent in United States completely out of reach for anyone below the poverty line, it is not surprising that individuals ages 18 to 25 endure the highest rates of homelessness and housing insecurity than any other age group; 1 in 10 report couch surfing or another form of homelessness at some point each year.
The United States has almost no social safety net for young adults (and a completely inadequate one for families with children or people with disabilities). There is a growing consensus, however, that the solution isn’t to create more bureaucratic programs with complicated eligibility rules but rather to directly transfer cash to the people who would benefit most and trust them to spend it on what they need.