One in every 30 children in the U.S. are homeless, and Sen. Kay Floyd wants to ensure that Oklahoma’s children don’t fall through the cracks of society but have all the services they need to grow up healthy and independent. Senate Bill 511 instructs the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, which is the agency that serves at-risk youth, to include recommendations for the development and improvement of services for homeless children and youth in their annual report.
“According to the Oklahoma Interagency Council or Homelessness, 22 percent of Oklahoma’s homeless population is under the age of 18. I want to know how we can help prevent this in the future. Our children deserve better,” said Floyd, D-Oklahoma. “It’s our responsibility to help and protect these children who have no voice or means to support themselves. We must provide them with the education and services they need to lead healthy, happy lives and become independent, productive adults.”
According to the National Center on Family Homelessness at the American Institutes for Research, Oklahoma ranked 46th in the nation for the number of children under 18 who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The study also found that 24 percent of Oklahoma children live at or below the poverty line.
The organization ranked the state 44th for child well-being because of the prevalence of health problems for children living below the federal poverty line. Research found that 15 percent of Oklahoma children living in poverty suffer from at least one chronic illness.
SB 511 instructs the Office of Planning and Coordination for Services to Children and Youth Steering Committee to review the state’s data on child homelessness and existing state, nonprofit and private programs offered around the state to address child homelessness. The committee will specifically examine 1) state trends in the number of children who are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless; 2) the state’s role in providing services to children and youth who are homeless or at risk for becoming homeless; 3) state policy regarding homeless children and youth; and 4) existing services, resources, and capacity including, but not limited to, the availability of publicly or privately provided resources to children and youth who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The committee will submit their policy recommendations to the legislature by December 31, 2015.
“Children who are homeless are much more likely to develop mental health and substance abuse issues than the general population but together we can change their path and improve their future,” said Floyd.
SB 511, which is co-authored by Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing), will go into effect July 1, 2015.