Lawmakers and advocates held the rally to address the One in 28 children under age six experience homelessness in Pennsylvania.
Eight years ago, just over 19,000 students in Pennsylvania identified as having experienced homelessness.
The number has grown since then, hitting 37,000 last year.
Teachers, school administrators, and lawmakers are hoping to lower that number and combat youth homelessness.
Advocates say one of the most important factors to accomplish that goal is education.
Sonia Pitzi is the Director at Pennsylvania’s Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness Program. She says efforts need to be focused on the potential for students who experience housing insecurity.
“We can change their outlook, we can change their future, we can be a starting ripple in their success,” said Pitzi. “With enough of us making ripples, we’re going to make waves. And with enough waves, we’re going to have a tsunami of success,” she added.
Among others in attendance, was Representative Donna Bullock (D-Philadelphia). Bullock recalls feeling what so many Pennsylvania children feel they don’t have a place to call home.
“This issue is personal to me because as a young person, I experienced homelessness with my family,” said Bullock.
Bullock shares a similar story with reigning Ms. Universe, Nikki Johnson-Huston.
Johnson-Huston experienced homelessness at a young age and is now an advocate for homeless youth.
“Nobody wants that for themselves, for their families, for their children. They want better,” said Johnson-Huston.
State Representative Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) says the success of communities is measured by the success of its youth.
“We know that when we invest in our youth, our youth invests in our communities,” said Sims.
“If you’re watching this and you are experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity, I want you to know that we see you and that there are people in this building that care deeply about you. I hope that you see that your values matter, that your lives matter. And I hope you see what you can aspire to,” added Sims.