There are more than 1.3 million homeless students in America’s public schools. Child and Youth homelessness is more than just a housing issue. Behind the face of every young homeless is a heart-breaking story–a teenage girl abused by an alcoholic dad, a young boy trying to escape a narcotic friends circle, teenage parents rejected by the society and much more. Underlying main cause of teenage homelessness is physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from parents or guardians.
DEFINITION OF YOUTH HOMELESSNESS
Homeless Youth are defined as unaccompanied youth aged 12 and older up to 24 years, who are without any family support and are living on the streets, shelters, cars, and vacant buildings.
STATISTICS AND DEMOGRAPHICS
The invisible millions are a term for youth homelessness as the issue is far more complex than we realize.
Studies done at “National Conference of State Legislatures” have shown that:
- One in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away
- Youth age 12 to 17 are more at risk of homelessness than adults
- 75 percent of runaways are female
- Estimates of the number of pregnant homeless girls are between 6 and 22 percent
- Between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning (GLBTQ)
- 46 percent of runaway and homeless youth reported being physically abused, 38 percent reported being emotionally abused, and 17 percent reported being forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member
- 75 percent of homeless or runaway youth have dropped out or will drop out of school
REASONS FOR GROWING NUMBERS OF YOUTH HOMELESSNESS
“If you focus your resources on getting kids off the street, it works,” said California state Sen. Scott Wiener. According to HUD’s 2014 Point-in-Time Report, 34% of the total homeless population is under 24.
There is an infinite number of reasons why adolescents are compelled to abandon their homes and live on the streets.
Here are a few of the most prominent elements:
One of the biggest patrons of teen homelessness is family issues. Some families reject their children on a basis of their sexual orientation or early pregnancy. Over 50% of the young people living in shelters and streets reported that their parents asked them to leave or did not care if they were living on the streets. Most of them have been abandoned or abused by parents or care givers.
Teen pregnancy, family conflicts, substance abuse and difficulties at school can all lead to a child running away from the home. Youths who do not have access to proper education or jobs face economic problems and fall for other vices to heal themselves.
Transition from Foster Cares and other public institutions
50% of adolescents aging out of foster care and juvenile justice systems become homeless within six months as they are unprepared to live independently and have limited education and no social support.
One of the leading causes of youth homelessness continues to be substance addiction. Young children get access to drugs and alcohols through friends in the school which leads to addiction.
Exploitation and Violence
About 25% of homeless children have faced physical and emotional exploitation and violence from the parents. Most of the homeless youth who fall into the trap of substance addiction once lived with an alcohol addict parent.
CONSEQUENCES OF LIFE ON THE STREETS FOR HOMELESS AND RUN-AWAY YOUTH
The homeless and run-away youth on the streets face extraordinary challenges such as:
Severe anxiety and depression
Children and youth face the repercussion of severe anxiety and depression as they lack emotional and social support from parents, guardians, and peers.
Youth is further prone to be a victim of sexual and emotional exploitation as contrasted to grown up adults. Most of the young homeless exchange sex for food and a secure place to sleep.
Difficulty attending schools
Lack of financial support makes it exceedingly challenging for young homeless students to continue their education. Young children usually experience embarrassment and shame when their vulnerabilities are made public.
Lack of employability
As the young kids were unable to complete their education, homelessness at such an unexpected age contributes to the challenge of being unemployable.
Lack of access to health care
The youth living on the streets do not have access to health care and medications which makes them more sensitive to diseases and illnesses.
The worst fallout of youth homeless is death. It is estimated that around 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year in America because of physical or sexual assault, sickness, or suicide.
PREVENTING YOUTH HOMELESSNESS
Intervention at a premature stage can aid in preventing homelessness. We can keep an eye on our neighbors, friends and family members who are exploiting or abusing their children. We can save families from disintegrating and children becoming destitute.
Here are the ways to prevent Youth Homelessness:
Strengthening Family Relationships
Kids are less likely to leave homes where they are loved and appreciated. We can all work a portion towards our moral valuations and learn how to connect with teenage kids. The government should constantly work towards strengthening the righteousness of its nationals through numerous procedures.
Comprehensive transition planning from foster care to real world
A distinct majority of children face homelessness within six months of the transition from a foster care into the real world. They are unprepared for the struggles and challenges of surviving in an actual world without any economic, moral, or emotional support.
Ensuring education and employment opportunities
The greatest challenge youth face as homeless is a lack of ability of continue education or find a job. They are unemployable as they lack education and skills. Connecting homeless kids with adults willing to provide free tutoring classes, career search techniques and technology support can contribute to a resolution to the youth homelessness.
Mobilizing all philanthropic efforts through public, private, and non-profit sectors can impact youth homelessness. There is not enough raise in funding for homeless as compared to their persistent growth over the years.
The public and designated representatives should consider youth homelessness as a significant issue which gradually affects the entire society. There should be strong messages advocated through media, hoardings, and newspapers such as–“If these youngsters never go to work, who will pay for the future America?” or “When kids are dying of cold outside, how can we celebrate Christmas inside our homes?”
Our country has a long history of removing young people from their communities and families and placing them in facilities far from home. Institutional placements are expensive, damaging, and inhumane for a flourishing society. We can end the youth homeless by becoming better parents, better teachers, and better neighbors.
Career & Recovery Resources, Inc. is a nonprofit, multi-service agency of the United Way of Greater Houston established in 1945 by B’nai B’rith. In our 73rdyear, Career & Recovery Resource’s mission is to help people identify and overcome barriers to employment for no cost. In 2017, we served over 13,500 individuals through our various programs and outreach efforts including academic funding, assessing career interests and aptitude, job counseling, technology training, preparation for GED, job search support, interviewing skills, resume building, access to telephones to contact employers and access to free job fairs, which offer direct employment from $8 to $50 per hour. We have been successfully breaking the barriers in employment such as communication difficulties, low morale, discrimination, transportation difficulties, long hours, maltreatment, physical and mental limitations, and lack of proper education.