Homeless Youth – Causes and Consequences

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Earlier this week, we shared a special guest post by Heather Morgan, Communications Specialist at Children’s Home Society of Central Florida. Heather shared the struggles and heartache that foster children face as they “age out” of the foster care system, with 33% of them becoming homeless within three years of leaving foster care. Today, we are stepping away from the issue of foster care, but we want to continue educating you on homelessness among teenagers.

We have pulled the more relevant tidbits from National Coalition for the Homeless (not affiliated with us) 2008 fact sheet on homeless teens to share with you:

Homeless youth are individuals under the age of eighteen who lack parental, foster, or institutional care. These young people are sometimes referred to as “unaccompanied” youth. (This is a separate population from the children at the Coalition, since we do not serve unaccompanied youth.)

The number of the homeless youth is estimated by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the US Department of Justice. Their most recent study, published in 2002, reported there are an estimated 1,682,900 homeless and runaway youth…

Causes of homelessness among youth fall into three inter-related categories: family problems, economic problems, and residential instability.

Disruptive family conditions are the principal reason that young people leave home…

Homeless youth face many challenges on the streets. Few homeless youth are housed in emergency shelters as a result of lack of shelter beds for youth, shelter admission policies, and a preference for greater autonomy…Because of their age, homeless youth have few legal means by which they can earn enough money to meet basic needs…

Furthermore, homeless youth face difficulties attending school because of legal guardianship requirements, residency requirements, improper records, and lack of transportation. As a result, homeless youth face severe challenges in obtaining an education and supporting themselves emotionally and financially…

Homeless youth benefit from programs that meet immediate needs first and then help them address other aspects of their lives…homeless youth would benefit from many of the same measures that are needed to fight poverty and homelessness in the adult population, including the provision of affordable housing and employment that pays a living wage.

In her guest post, Heather discussed the adversity children “aging out” of the foster care system face, the most severe of which is often homelessness. In a heart-wrenching lament, she questioned “…how can we, as a community, not step up for them…?” With the same question burning in the heart of our agency, we urge you to empathize with the struggles of homeless youth and their families. Our hope is that your compassionate understanding will result in action, allowing their tumultuous adolescence to become overshadowed by the light of their bright futures.  

To find out more about the issue of youth homelessness, check out the resource list available on the National Coalition for the Homeless’ website.

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