Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, led a hearing today to examine the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness. The hearing’s witnesses included Brittany Dixon, a former homeless youth and current education technician from Auburn, Maine, and True Colors Fund Co-Founder and Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award winning artist, Cyndi Lauper.
In her opening remarks, Senator Collins began by highlighting the severity of youth homelessness across America, stating the staggering statistic that, “According to HUD’s 2014 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, there are more than 194,300 homeless children and youth, representing nearly one-third of all homeless people. Of this total, 45,205 were unaccompanied homeless children and youth, which is nearly eight percent of the total homeless population.” Senator Collins continued, “Ending youth homelessness requires cooperation and coordination across federal agencies, at different levels of government, and in partnership with the philanthropic and non-profit sector.”
Senator Collins also highlighted the importance of federal funding in Maine to help meet the needs of homeless youth, “New Beginnings in Lewiston, and the Preble Street Resource Center in Portland, have used these resources to connect young people who need food, safe shelter, health services, and educational support with those who can provide those services,” said Senator Collins.
Brittany Dixon, a former homeless youth from Auburn, gave powerful testimony on her personal experience with homelessness. After becoming homeless at 18 years old, Brittany was connected with New Beginnings, a non-profit organization that provides emergency services and transitional living programs for youth throughout the state of Maine. In her testimony, Brittany said, “New Beginnings provided many resources I could use to succeed, including assistance with college applications and financial aid… New Beginnings has helped me to develop critical life skills and to become self-sufficient.”
With guidance from the New Beginnings team, Brittany attended the University of Maine at Farmington and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She now works full time as an Educational Technician for Washburn Elementary School in Auburn and is planning to become a kindergarten teacher.
Brittany concluded her testimony by stating, “Programs that support homeless youth are important to so many young people like me. It gives young people the chance to have a safe place to stay while they get their footing and figure out what they want to do in their lives. It is important for every youth who faces homelessness to have funding for transitional and temporary programs that help them learn, be supported and have a safe place to stay. I didn’t need to be supported forever, only until I could move to the next level for myself. Thank you for the opportunity to share my experience and for supporting programs like these.”
In the hearing, Senator Collins pointed to the importance of legislation such as the Runaway and Homeless Youth Trafficking Prevention Act, which despite receiving a majority vote, fell short of the 60-vote threshold required for inclusion in the final passage of the anti-trafficking bill last week. Senator Collins noted, “Our amendment would have reauthorized those critical preventive and treatment services that help homeless youth around the country,” and underscored that she, “will continue to advocate for passage of this important legislation.”
Click the links below for downloadable photos from today’s hearing: