By Amy Louttit 3L
The San Diego Task Force on Unaccompanied Youth met recently at Thomas Jefferson School of Law with three TJSL students in attendance, showing the commitment of so many students at the law school to become involved in important community-wide issues.
Amy Louttit 3L, Youth Director/Specialist of the Task Force was at the meeting, along with Deborah Micev 3L and Sara Kelley 3L, who both came to the meeting to increase their own awareness of the issues and find out how they might be of service.
The San Diego Task Force, in particular, is collaboration between the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and the San Diego Continuum of Care (SD CofC). The recent meeting included representatives from the SD CofC, the Regional Task Force on the Homeless in SD, the San Diego County Office of Education, San Marcos Unified School District, StandUp for Kids, Toussaint Academy, The Store Front, DreamsForChange and, among others Specialists in CalFresh from the Department of Health and Human Services. The meeting also had a great turnout of youth from a number of programs/schools including Monarch School, a school in downtown San Diego which provides an academic and supportive environment for students impacted by homelessness.
The NAEHCY SD Task Force on Unaccompanied Youth’s primary purpose is to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for unaccompanied youth by identifying youths’ needs and advocating for federal and state public policy changes. The Task Force brings together a wide array of youth-serving programs and young people to ensure that homeless youth are stable, studying and successful. They are working to ensure full implementation and compliance with the McKinney Vento Act in secondary education, to improve access to higher education and to break down barriers to core services required for youth to succeed, including health care, housing and nutrition.
According to Amy Louttit, youth being involved in this process is integral to ensuring they are using their time and energy in an efficient way. The youth give guidance for keeping the Task Force on track to address the actual needs of the students, in addition to what those in the field perceive as needs. Louttit will be meeting with the Youth Representatives from the Task Force’s Youth Consultant Panel in between the meetings of the Task Force as a whole.
“Thomas Jefferson School of Law supporting this meeting and allowing the Task Force to meet in the Board Room on the 8th floor really allows youth the chance to get their hands dirty in real legislative work!,” said Louttit. “One youth made her voice heard as she closed the Task Force meeting with extraordinarily motivational words: ‘It is really great to see all of these adults giving their time and efforts to this cause, but as a youth, I am concerned there will be a lot of talk, but as adults often do, there will be no action taken or anything actually done.’ The sense of empowerment this young woman exemplified was an inspiration to everyone at the table to not fall into that category of adults who talk the talk but never walk the walk, and yet take credit for being socially active.”
“I have been involved with being a homeless youth advocate in education for the past six years,” added Louttit. “This work is important to me because all too often school administrators and legislators are uninformed about the complexities in the McKinney Vento Act, which confers educational rights on homeless youth.”
“I was inspired by Amy to attend the Task-Force meeting after we discussed issues we encountered in working with children from foster homes,” said Debbie Micev. “Before coming to TJSL, I worked in clinical neuropsychology evaluating patients with neurological problems, many of which were children in foster care. When I start my own practice, I will have a dedicated percentage of pro bono work representing foster children in their legal issues with their parents and treatment providers.”
“As a co-founder of Dreams for Change, a nonprofit dedicated to innovative solutions to homelessness, I know that there is an overwhelming and diverse homeless population in San Diego,” said Sara Kelley. “I hope that by assisting homeless youth, we can turn the tide and prevent them from becoming homeless adults”.