SB0207/HB0206 Unaccompanied Minors in Need of Shelter and Supportive Services

Bill Title: Unaccompanied Minors in Need of Shelter and Supportive Services

Bill Number(s): HB0206 and SB0207

Bill Sponsor(s): Delegate Carol L. Krimm (D-3A, Fredrick County) and Senator Mary L. Washington (D-43, Baltimore City)

Position: Support

Legislative History: Received reading in Appropriations and Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committees

What would this bill do?

This bill establishes that unaccompanied minors who are experiencing homelessness have legal capacity to consent to admission to sheltering programs registered with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. HB0206/SB0207 will create more emergency shelter options for youth, giving them the necessary resources to become self-sufficient and achieve their goals.  By providing clarity in the law to allow for self-consent by unaccompanied minors, service providers will legally be accountable for services provided. The requirement to register as a 501(c )3 nonprofit organization ensures legitimate shelters that are known to state authorities. This bill will also help prevent exploitation such as sex trafficking of unaccompanied homeless minors by increasing safe shelter options.  In agreement with our goal towards improving the lives of individuals of  low/limited incomes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (“LGBTQ”) Marylanders, unaccompanied homeless minors deserve the ability to obtain safety for themselves by accessing safe shelters.

Why is this bill needed?

Based on national studies, 5% to 10% of youth identify as LGBTQ. However, the disproportionate numbers of LGBTQ youth who experience homelessness in Maryland alone, demonstrate the strong need for safe spaces like emergency shelters. Of the estimated 2,425 youth who go to sleep without a stable living situation, or the support of a family member/guardian, 40% identify at LGBTQ. LGBTQ homeless youth face greater risk factors leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, dangerous and unstable living situations, school drop-out, human trafficking, and to violence. These risk factors in turn lead to higher incidences of justice system involvement, unemployment, and health problems.

LGBTQ youth are at increased risks for homelessness compared to their peers. Many of these youth are forced out of their homes because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression in which their legal guardians feel they are breaking societal or personal norms. Many youths may leave environments where their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression has led to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. The need for self-consent to these shelters are essential for safety of these youth.