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USA

Homeless youth need guidance and support

November is National Homeless Youth Awareness month. This is not just an abstract issue. Homelessness robs potential. It can dim the bright light that should shine in the eyes of a budding entrepreneur, potential mechanic, doctor or teacher. If we let it, homelessness can diminish hope.

The statistics are heartbreaking:

• Between 1.7 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year.

• Fifty seven percent of homeless youth spend at least one day every month without food.

• According to a study of youth in shelters, nearly 50 percent report abuse as a contributing factor to their homelessness.

• More than 25 percent of former foster youth become homeless within two to four years of exiting the system.

• Forty percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ and report family rejection as the reason they became homeless.

• Fifty percent of youth aging out of foster care and exiting the juvenile justice systems will be homeless within six months because they are unprepared to live independently, have limited education, minimal job skills, mental health issues and no social supports.

• Almost 40 percent of the homeless in the United States are under 18.

For more than 45 years, Youth Service Bureau (YSB) has connected with young people where they are and provided immediate safety, shelter and hope.

The need is not diminishing. Safe Station, YSB’s emergency youth shelter is at capacity nearly every day. The newly announced Keystone transitional living program is nearly full even before the program is officially up and running. The Young Moms’ Self-Sufficiency program consistently has a waiting list, and YSB’s Street Outreach staff report increases in the numbers of 19-24 year olds who need help.

Without YSB, teens who have been victims of abuse and neglect would have minimal opportunity for healing. Youth exiting the foster care and juvenile justice system will face the possibility of homelessness within two years without proper guidance and support. A gay teen, kicked out of their home would have no safe place to find help. These young people have so much potential and capacity for success if we can connect. In November, and throughout the year, YSB needs our help to advocate, donate and share their message that all youth deserve safety and stability.

By Sue Taylor

11 November 2017

Sue Taylor is president of the Youth Service Bureau board of directors. 

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