Homeless youth face many challenges on the streets. Few homeless youth are housed in emergency shelters as a result of lack of shelter beds for youth, shelter admission policies, and a preference for greater autonomy (Robertson, 1996). Because of their age, homeless youth have few legal means by which they can earn enough money to meet basic needs. Many homeless adolescents find that exchanging sex for food, clothing, and shelter is their only chance of survival on the streets. In turn, homeless youth are at a greater risk of contracting AIDS or HIV-related illnesses. Estimates for percentages of homeless youth infected with HIV are generally around 5%, but one study in San Francisco found that 17% of homeless youths were infected (Health Resources and Services Administration 2001). It has been suggested that the rate of HIV prevalence for homeless youth may be as much as 2 to 10 times higher than the rates reported for other samples of adolescents in the United States (National Network for Youth, 1998).
Homeless adolescents often suffer from severe anxiety and depression, poor health and nutrition, and low self-esteem. In one study, the rates of major depression, conduct disorder, and post-traumatic stress syndrome were found to be 3 times as high among runaway youth as among youth who have not run away (Robertson, 1989).
Furthermore, homeless youth face difficulties attending school because of legal guardianship requirements, residency requirements, improper records, and lack of transportation. As a result, homeless youth face severe challenges in obtaining an education and supporting themselves emotionally and financially.
These statistics are more than just numbers. They account for the scores 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.