With the launch of the Homeless Youth Handbook, advocates and California youth who are unhoused, precariously housed, or transitioning out of homelessness have gained a major new set of legal resources. A multi-year, multi-state pro bono initiative by Baker McKenzie in partnership with corporate partners and a broad range of legal services and youth support organizations, the Homeless Youth Handbook is the product of thousands of hours of dedicated pro bono and volunteer work. The Handbook offers young people along with the social workers, legal advocates, shelter staff, school and medical personnel who support them a set of state-specific legal resources that speak plainly about topics including shelters, foster youth transition, LGBTQ+ issues, schools and education, employment, sexual exploitation and assault, public benefits, and immigration, among many others.
The California Homeless Youth Handbook joins handbooks from 6 other states and the District of Columbia, with at least two additional handbooks on their way. It was launched on January 31, 2019, in an event held at the Google Community Space in San Francisco. The Handbook represents the work of a collaboration including Baker McKenzie, Bay Area Legal Aid, Tipping Point Community, and Google. This partnership is united in our understanding that the legal needs of homeless youth arise not in narrowly defined circumstances such as criminal justice or the foster care system, but touch on every aspect of young people’s lives. Whenever the adult system of care breaks down, as seen in its most egregious form in the homelessness of unaccompanied youth, neglect of young people’s basic legal entitlements in a broad range of areas follows, and amounts to the denial of young people’s fundamental rights: to safety, to a stable home, to appropriate education, to health care, and to having basic needs met. The Homeless Youth Handbook is one way of meeting the legal community’s responsibility to shed light on how social safety net systems can negatively impact or fail to serve young people; highlight resources and entitlements that increase young people’s capacity for self-determination; and build broader partnerships of youth, service providers, and advocates who share this crucial legal knowledge.
We are deeply grateful to Baker McKenzie and the other partners in the California Homeless Youth Handbook for their time, expertise, and commitment — and deeply proud of the role of BayLegal’s Youth Justice unit in creating the California handbook. We offer our thanks as well to the broader community of all those who care about young people and work to help eradicate homelessness and poverty and ensure that all youth have access to stability & the opportunity to pursue their dreams.