We live in a system that makes it extremely difficult to get out of homelessness. I think there’s a prevalent assumption in our society that homelessness is caused by an individual’s inability to make the right choices in their life, after all, you’re friends and family have been able to survive just fine through hard work and perseverance right? But the reality is that there are so many factors that lead to homelessness such as running away from an abusive family, having a mental/physical disability that prevents the ability to work, being kicked out for being LGTBQ, financial crisis, addiction/substance dependence (which is classified as a mental disorder), and the simple fact that housing, food, and healthcare in the United States are so expensive. There is no way that even if a person had a minimum wage job, they could afford a place to live in many areas of the Land of the Free.
It’s no question that families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, especially since the recession. Along with family and all other growing kinds of homelessness, where does “youth” fit in?
Many educational statutes define a ‘child’ as being under the age of 18. Many children become homeless with their families. But another large group of under-18-year-olds find themselves homeless and with no family support.
Luckily there are many shelters and safe housing programs that do great work to ameliorate homelessness, although many define “youth” differently. Many youth shelters across the country, such as Aarti Hotel and El Rescate, can only hold youth until 24. The Homeless Youth Coalition classifies youth to a lesser range of 18-23 years old. First Steps for Youth helps an even small youth range: 16-18 years old, including minors. the number of Children whom live in the US below poverty level is 12,000.000
Still, after the age of 18, legal adulthood, a homeless person is still homeless. So where does youth end? Better yet, when does youth homelessness end?