Let’s talk about young adults, 18-25, in our community with no place to call home. They risk living on the streets to escape abusive homes, or they’ve no relatives to turn to. Imagine being eighteen, out of school, no home, no employable skills, no money for college and sleeping on a dark street under a dumpster, in a beat up old car, or in the furnace room of a school’s basement.
Do you recall turning eighteen and uncovering a sense of freedom? Were your parents able to teach you the skills needed to live on your own or assist you financially? One major reason for youth homelessness is parental conflict ending in the parent demanding they move out. Other causes include running away from alternate care situations or finding themselves unable to afford rent, bills and groceries.
This vulnerable population can fall through the cracks. Many struggle in hidden homelessness situations, such as rough sleeping (on the streets) or squatting (sleeping in abandoned buildings). Some go to desperate measures to avoid the dangers of sleeping rough, including committing a crime or resorting to sex work to get a roof over their heads.
Homeless youth need support and a good role model. While the schools and other support systems in our Northwest Suburbs are doing everything they can to get our homeless youth in school and keep them there, earlier intervention is essential to prevent them from developing higher needs and falling into long term homelessness. Local schools and agencies are attempting to address the gaps in education, social support networks, barriers to employment, and affordable housing.
Mature families may require temporary assistance as a result of job loss or other isolated events and rebound quickly. Statistics show undeveloped families with parents under twenty-five are far more likely to return to emergency shelters since they lack the job or life skills to move forward on their own. This at-risk population needs education about what it is to be a successful adult, hopefully before they have babies of their own. If America is going to get serious about ending the cycle of homelessness, focusing on our youth is a great starting point.
Locally, Northwest Compass is committed to ending the cycle of youth homelessness and has created a new program called HYPE (Helping Youth on the Path to Empowerment) a new coordinated system adopting new methods of providing existing services through better alignment of housing resources, education, training and employment services, as well as an array of supportive services.