CAUSES OF HOMELESS YOUTH
Causes of homelessness among youth fall into three inter-related categories: family problems, economic problems, and residential instability.
Many homeless youth leave home after years of physical and sexual abuse, strained relationships, addiction of a family member, and parental neglect. Disruptive family conditions are the principal reason that young people leave home: in one study, more than half of the youth interviewed during shelter stays reported that their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving and did not care (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (a), 1995). In another study, 46% of runaway and homeless youth had been physically abused and 17% were forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (c), 1997).
Some youth may become homeless when their families suffer financial crises resulting from lack of affordable housing, limited employment opportunities, insufficient wages, no medical insurance, or inadequate welfare benefits. These youth become homeless with their families, but are later separated from them by shelter, transitional housing, or child welfare policies (Shinn and Weitzman, 1996).
Residential instability also contributes to homelessness among youth. A history of foster care correlates with becoming homeless at an earlier age and remaining homeless for a longer period of time (Roman and Wolfe, 1995). Some youth living in residential or institutional placements become homeless upon discharge — they are too old for foster care but are discharged with no housing or income support (Robertson, 1996). One national study reported that more than one in five youth who arrived at shelters came directly from foster care, and that more than one in four had been in foster care in the previous year (National Association of Social Workers, 1992).
These statistics are more than just numbers. They account for the lost live of homeless youth that are alone and vulnerable on the streets of Indianapolis and surrounding communities. It’s only through the grace of God and your gifts of hope that make it possible for Outreach fulfill its mission of getting these kids off the streets and onto the road toward a better life.