“We have a new face of homelessness, and that face is kids,” said Brenda Dowdy, a homeless education program specialist for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. “Kids are victims of circumstance. They don’t choose to be homeless.”
Homelessness in our schools is a crisis and nowhere is this more evident than in California where statewide more than 300,000 youth are trying to learn yet have no place to call home. One-fifth of all homeless school children in the U.S. are in California. Local Los Angeles county and city officials have petitioned the governor to declare a state of emergency and provide emergency funds to address the homeless crisis. It’s time we supported the most vulnerable in our society, homeless youth and their efforts to attend school. Youth homelessness permeates every level from elementary to the university level.
Family problems: Many youth run away, and in turn become homeless, due to problems in the home, including physical and sexual abuse, mental health disorders of a family member, substance abuse and addiction of a family member, and parental neglect. In some cases, youth are asked to leave the home because the family is unable to provide for their specific mental health or disability needs. Still some youth are pushed out of their homes because their parents cannot afford to care for them.
Transitions from foster care and other public systems: Youth who have been involved in the foster care system are more likely to become homeless at an earlier age and remain homeless for a longer period of time. Youth aging out of the foster care system often have little or no income support and limited housing options and are at higher risk to end up on the streets. Youth that live in residential or institutional facilities often become homeless upon discharge. In addition, very few homeless youth are able to seek housing in emergency shelters due to the lack of shelter beds for young people and shelter admission policies.
Economic problems: Some youth become homeless when their families fall into difficult financial situations resulting from lack of affordable housing, difficulty obtaining or maintaining a job, or lack of medical insurance or other benefits. These youth become homeless with their families, but later can find themselves separated from them and/or living on the streets alone, often due to shelter or child welfare policies.
**Sourced from National Conference of State Legislatures & Covenant House