Understanding Youth Homelessness
CAUSES: Homelessness among youth fall into three categories: family problems, economic problems, and residential instability. Many homeless youth leave home after years of physical and sexual abuse, strained relationships, addiction of a family member, and parental neglect. Disruptive family conditions are the principal reason that young people leave home.
One study on runaway youth noted, more than half of the youth interviewed during shelter stays reported that their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving and did not care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1995). In another study, 46% of runaway and homeless youth had been physically abused and 17% were forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1997). Some youth may become homeless when their families have financial crises resulting from lack of affordable housing, limited employment opportunities, insufficient wages, or no medical insurance.
CONSEQUENCES: 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 (Robertson, 1996). Because of their age, homeless youth have few legal means by which they can earn enough money to meet basic needs. Many homeless adolescents find that exchanging sex for food, clothing, and shelter is their only chance of survival on the streets or by couch surfing (Staying from one place to the next). In turn, homeless youth are at a greater risk of contracting an STI or becoming pregnant.
Homeless adolescents often suffer from severe anxiety and depression, poor health and nutrition, and low self-esteem. In one study, the rates of major depression, conduct disorder, and post traumatic stress syndrome were found to be 3 times as high among runaway youth as among youth who have not run away (Robertson, 1989). 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.
CHANGES: Homeless youth benefit from programs that meet immediate needs first and then help them address other aspects of their lives. Programs that minimize institutional demands and offer a range of services have had success in helping homeless youth regain stability (Robertson, 1996). Educational outreach programs, assistance in locating job training and employment, transitional living programs, and health care especially designed for and directed at homeless youth are also needed. In the long term, 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.
HOW WE HELP: The Teen Emergency Shelter opened in 1992, specifically to meet the needs of homeless and runaway youth, deter school dropouts, and strengthen families. The TES is an eight bed coed facility licensed to accept kids ages 10 to 17. The TES is the only facility of its kind within a 100-mile radius. Admission to the shelter is voluntary, but often the result of a referral by a school, Juvenile Probation, CPS, the Police, or one of the 34 Safe Place sites in the area. The average length of stay is about two weeks.
An integral part of the Teen Shelter’s program is the counseling provided to teens and their families. The purpose of the counseling is to defuse the crisis situation, identify the problems that led to the crisis, provide the family with coping skills, and encourage an environment in which the youth can mature into a reasonably content and responsible adult. Youths receive independent living and social skills training, with an emphasis on education. The TES provides an aftercare program at no cost to the family. Substance abuse education and prevention counseling is also provided. The Teen Shelter is The Teen Shelter is funded in part by a Health and Human Services Basic Center Grant for Runaway and Homeless Youth.
If you know a runaway/homeless youth or a kid in crisis please contact our agency at 940-322-7671.
The Children’s Home and Teen Shelter are committed to providing youths, a safe, supportive environment in which they can make constructive decisions about their future and their relationships with others.
Your support is needed:
Our youth are our hope for the future. Your support can make the difference in the lives of youth who are in desperate need of help.
How can you help?
Private donations to the Children’s Aid Society are always deeply appreciated, and are tax deductible.
Sponsor a wish list item:
- Gift Cards for clothes and supplies
- Toiletries (deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, conditioner, brushes, combs, hair accessories, cologne, make-up, etc.)
- School Supplies