AIDS Action’s Youth on Fire Participates in Legislative Action Day & Youth on the Hill Day
March 1, 2013—AIDS Action joined hundreds of others at the State House Feb. 27 for Legislative Action Day & Youth on the Hill Day. The day of action was held to promote passage of “An Act Providing Housing and Support Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth,” also known as the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Act.
There are an estimated 6,000 high school students who are currently homeless, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Thousands more are believed to be homeless and are not counted in DESE estimates because they have dropped out of school.
"Young adults are homeless because they have aged out of foster care; persistent family poverty; and abuse, neglect and parental rejection,” said Ayala Livny, Program Manager for Youth on Fire, AIDS Action’s drop-in center for street-involved and homeless youth ages 14-24. “Getting young adults off the streets requires the dedication, investment, and coordination of communities, organizations, and government programs. The Unaccompanied and Homeless Youth Law has created a Special Commission to study and understand the needs and challenges of homeless young adults in the Commonwealth. But it’s time to move beyond studies and provide funding to improve housing options and support services for these young people.”
The Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Act would fund a continuum of housing and support services for young adults who are homeless and on their own without an adult or guardian. Street-involved and homeless youth are at greater risk for dropping out of school and are more likely to abuse drugs and suffer from mental illness then their peers. About one-third of all new HIV infections in the U.S. occur in people under age 29. Of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts at the end of 2011, 10% (1,774) were diagnosed between ages 13 and 24 years. Homelessness, drug use, and abuse are strongly tied to HIV risk among youth.
Members of Youth on Fire can access tangible services that include daily meals, showers, laundry, clothing, safer sex supplies, and access to computers and phones. In addition, basic health screening services and mental health services are provided on-site by the Sidney Borum, Jr. Health Center. AIDS Action provides case management services for those members who wish to address long-term goals. In the past year, 733 youth visited us 6,797 times. We connected 147 of them with HIV testing and counseling services; arranged 159 visits with a primary health care provider and 56 visits with a mental health clinician; and conducted 387 risk-reduction assessments.
AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts is the state’s leading provider of prevention and wellness services for people vulnerable to HIV infection. It provides services to one in six people in Massachusetts living with an HIV diagnosis. These services include HIV counseling and testing; needle exchange; mental health counseling; housing assistance; and legal services. AIDS Action works to prevent new HIV infections, support those affected by HIV, and tackle the root causes of HIV/AIDS by educating the public and health professionals about HIV prevention and care; and advocating for fair and effective HIV/AIDS policy at the city, state, and federal levels. Founded in 1983, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts is New England’s first and largest AIDS service organization. Learn more at www.aac.org.