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New bill would help homeless children in Pennsylvania

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 08 2014 04:18:30 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 08 2014 04:56:33 PM CDT

An estimated 6,000 infants and toddlers are homeless in Pennsylvania.

She probably doesn't know it, but three-year-old Alany Sanchez started her life homeless.

"I was worried I wasn't spending enough time on teaching her things, having her where she was supposed to be," said Alany's mom, Janissa Sanchez.

Sanchez, however, was accepted into the Valley Youth House, a social service program where Alany was able to get the educational attention she needed, while Sanchez found a job and got her own apartment.

Pennsylvania Rep. Justin Simmons, a Lehigh Valley Republican, is trying to give all homeless kids the same chance Alany had.

"It's about getting these kids on the right track to lead productive lives," Simmons said.

Simmons sponsored a bill that would provide outreach, educational tracking and early intervention for all homeless infants and toddlers.

"Children would be tracked by measures and making sure on course, the second there is a sign of problem, interventions could be put into place," said Patricia Manz, a professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.

"Definitely an increase in the number of families living in temporary conditions," Rebecca Fenerty said.

Fenerty, of Head Start, an educational program for low-income families, said long-term, early education attention leads to higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates and a shot at a better life for kids.

"The earlier children receive services, especially if in adverse environment as homeless help them substantially in development," she said.

As for Alany, her mom wants what you'd hope every mother would.

"I want her to believe in herself and be successful," Sanchez said.

The bill passed the House and is now in the Senate. A state senator did say the bill has a strong chance to pass.