New law to help provide shelter for homeless 17-year-old teens

Published: Nov. 19, 2019 at 5:16 PM CST
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Current law in Wisconsin allows anyone who is 18 years old to check into a shelter or transitional home.

If you're 17, you aren't legally allowed to do that unless you have permission from a parent.

Governor Tony Evers signed Assembly Bill 52 into law Tuesday.

2019 Wisconsin Act 22 allows 17-year-olds who are homeless and unaccompanied by a parent or guardian to admit themselves into a shelter or a transitional living program.

Chris Hedlund, program director at Hope Gospel Mission, says within about 90 miles of Eau Claire, there are about 1500 children a year that experience at least one night of homelessness.

“Children shouldn’t have to have the resilience to deal with being homeless as a child,” said Hedlund.

According to 2019 Wisconsin Act 22, the law does the following:

•Provides a mechanism for homeless and unaccompanied 17-year-olds to contract for admission to a shelter facility or transitional living program.

•Requires the minor not be under the supervision of a county department, a child welfare agency, the Department of Children and Families, or the Department of Corrections.

•Requires a school's homeless liaison to confirm, with the minor's consent, that the minor is unaccompanied.

•Allows an employee of a shelter facility or transitional living program to confirm a minor is an unaccompanied youth if a school's homeless liaison is unavailable.

Officials with Hope Gospel Mission say most 17-year-olds seeking help will go through the homeless liaison with the Eau Claire Area School District. The liaison has the final say on who does or does not qualify to receive assistance.