Advocacy & Community Awareness
Starting Right, Now performs extensive community outreach to raise awareness about young people facing life alone without the care of a reliable adult, and with no institutional safety-net. SRN has assisted in amending ten laws in Florida to reduce barriers faced by unaccompanied youth.
Legislation Co-Authored by SRN
Unaccompanied Youth can obtain their birth certificate, social security card and state ID without parental consent statewide;
Unaccompanied youth have the right to an expedited emancipation trial without court fees;
Unaccompanied youth can consent for their own healthcare, including mental health, as minors;
Homeless Higher Education Tuition Waiver
Homeless higher education tuition waivers are now accepted at all Florida colleges and vocational programs;
Unaccompanied Youth ID Cards
The school district must provide identification cards that prove student’s status as an unaccompanied youth and confirm their attendant rights;
Unaccompanied youth can consent for their own psychiatric evaluation and treatment, above the age of 16;
Substance Abuse Services
Unaccompanied youth can consent for their own substance abuse evaluation and treatment, above the age of 16;
Keys to Independence
Unaccompanied youth qualify for Keys to Independence (formally limited to foster care youth), easing the process to become drivers;
Homelessness Supports at College
State college campuses must have a homeless liaison and a food bank;
Coding "Homelessness" in College
Students can meet the definition of “homeless children and youth”, and therefore receive a tuition waiver, while residing in a college or university dormitory. These residences are no longer considered permanent housing because they close during school breaks, leaving unaccompanied homeless youth unhoused. Any student who is determined to be a homeless child or youth for a preceding award year is presumed to be a homeless child or youth for each subsequent year unless the student informs the institution that their circumstances have changed or the institution has conflicting information;
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a memorandum clarifying that unaccompanied youth are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) independent of their family — SNAP – Clarification of Policies Barriers Facing Homeless Youth. Similarly the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have clarified the rights of unaccompanied homeless youth to obtain Medicaid coverage — Access to Health Services for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness. Further information about rights granted to unaccompanied youth in Florida can be found in the House of Representatives Staff Analysis on Homeless Youth.
SRN Founder and CEO, Vicki Sokolik, authored If You See Them: Young, Unhoused, and Alone in America (Spiegel & Grau/February 13, 2024), the remarkable story of her work on the frontlines advocating for unaccompanied homeless youth. If You See Them is a powerful examination of the issue of youth homelessness. An inspiring account of grassroots action and social justice, it also gives voice to the youth themselves, who tell their own stories.
“These unforgettable, deeply moving, all-too-true stories amount to an urgent call to action.” – Robert Kolker, author of New York Times bestseller Hidden Valley Road
“Helping traumatized teenagers with no homes or functional parents is hard, complicated, maddening work, but Vicki Sokolik won’t take no for an answer. Her zealous, sometimes maddening, but ultimately heroic persistence turns out to be just what it takes to overcome the defenses of her young clients and push them, struggling, into a better life.’ – Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning
In partnership with WEDU, SRN has produced a podcast, titled, “Raising Me,” on which students in their own words recount their struggles as unaccompanied homeless youth and explain the necessity of programs like SRN. “Raising Me” was a finalist for the 2021 National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) Public Media Awards.