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Homeless Youth Problem Misunderstood

Before the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act was signed in 1974, homeless youth and runaway children were viewed as delinquents and typically placed in juvenile detention centers or incarcerated. For 40 years, the federal government has sought to end youth homelessness and is now hoping to do so by the year 2020, according to a recent article in the Epoch Times.

Despite the numerous organizations and quote
services available, an accurate number on homeless youth in the United States does not exist. Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services, was able to provide some data for 2013:

  • Emergency shelters were made available across the country to more than 30,000 youth
  • 3,322 youths entered transitional living programs
  • On a single night in January, The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated almost 47,000 U.S. children and adolescents experienced homelessness.

Dr. Resa Matthew, Director for the Division of Adolescent Development and Support, Family and Youth Services Bureau, HHS, shares some common misconceptions people have about homeless youth:

MYTH: Young people can go home, stay with someone they know, or go to a shelter.
REALITY: Shelters do not always have enough beds available, and most homeless youth lack transportation to even get to a shelter. More than half of homeless youth were asked to leave by a parent or caregiver, and 25 percent had been abused by a parent or caregiver. Youth living on the streets are likely to become victims of robbery, violence or sexual assault.

MYTH: Homeless youth have no aspirations.
REALITY: Survival is the number one focus for homeless youth. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, our physiological needs (food, water, shelter) must be met before our human motivations can move up in the pyramid. Homeless youth may have the desire to attend school, but they do not have the services they need to advance their education.

Ending youth homelessness is doable, and KVC is leading a broadly-supported initiative to create a new national model for the vulnerable population of youth aging out of foster care without a permanent family or home. Click here to read more about our proposal to transform the closing Sugar Grove naval base in Pendleton County, West Va. into a specialized career college for youth aging out of foster care.