Reporting Roseanne Tellez
CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s bad enough not having a place to sleep every night, now things could soon get worse, with homeless people having to prove they don’t have a place to live to get federal assistance.
But advocates for the homeless plan to go to Washington, D.C., to try to bring a halt to new federal rules and stop the red tape before it starts.
CBS 2′s Roseanne Tellez reports on the fight against new rules for the homeless.
“It was hard because I didn’t want anybody to know or look at me any different,” Starnica Rodgers said of becoming homeless.
Rodgers was a student with no home to do homework. She was homeless and pregnant at 18, so she knows the difficulties facing homeless youth and has carefully prepared remarks to read to a congressional subcommittee in Washington on Thursday.
She plans to tell members of the committee, “I have had to struggle my whole life to find a place to call home, so I hope that you understand how important stable housing is to a young person.”
Advocates for the homeless have said new regulations at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would force anyone who is homeless to prove they have nowhere to stay in order to get government help.
Under the new rules, if you’re staying with a relative, no matter how temporarily, you’re not considered homeless.
“We are at a time in this country that it is so absolutely brutal on families that are homeless and youth that are homeless that I cannot imagine making their lives any more miserable. So, it’s worth doing everything we can do,” said homeless advocate Diane Nilan.
U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), who will chair Thursday’s committee hearing, said she thinks the HUD definition of homelessness raises too many barriers.
“Kids living in shabby motels or jumping from couch to couch deserve our help too. Every child should have a safe place to sleep at night,” she said in a written statement.
Rodgers said, thanks to a transitional living program, she completed her first semester of college with an A and two Bs.
“I had a great semester, because the staff here actually really helped me a lot,” she said.
Statistics released Tuesday showed child homelessness rose 38% during the recession.
Homeless advocates said the new HUD rules will bring the number down, but for all the wrong reasons. Youth who are couch surfing, as they call it, wouldn’t be counted as homeless anymore.