Category Archives: homeless kids

How many homeless youth are there?

How many Kids are Homeless?

There is a  Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report to Congress with information on this subject titled Runaway and Homeless Youth: Demographics, Programs, and Emerging Issues which was published in January 2007.  This link is to their 37 page report. 

I think they are being honest when they say this:

The precise number of homeless and runaway youth is unknown due to their residential mobility and overlap among the populations. Determining the number of these youth is further complicated by the lack of a standardized methodology for counting the population and inconsistent definitions of what it means to be homeless or a runaway.

Estimates of the homeless youth population range from 52,000 to over one million.  Estimates of runaway youth – including “thrownaway” youth – are between 1 million and 1.7 million.

Part of the problem of counting homeless youth is that they often avoid shelters and more or less hide in inaccessable areas where they avoid counters.  Some hide out with friends, others take to the woods and alleys, even the rails.  You may have seen an earlier post of mine (Homeless Youth Project) where loose groups of homeless youth ride the rails around the country.  Youth that do come into contact with census counters are reluctant to admit that they are homeless.    

The 52,000 to over 1 million estimates are based on a series of counting attempts through the decades.    A 1987 GAO report estimated 52,000 to 170,000 homeless on any one night.  CDC’s 1992 National Health Interview Survey of youth ages 12 to 17 determined that 5% of those they surveyed had been homeless during some part of the prior year.  That estimate came to more than a million youth that experienced homelessness during that year.

The latest federal survey was conducted by NISMART – (National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children) which was conducted in 1999.  That study found that 1.8 million youth under age 18 left home or were asked to leave home in 1999 (at some time during the year). 

The NISMART-2 study for 1999 shows that:

1.8 million youth under age 18 experienced homelessness

68% were between the ages of 15 and 17 (1,224,000)

32% were 14 or younger (612,000) 

20% reported sexual abuse in the home (360,000)

33% reported family conflict in the home (600,000)

there were about an equal number of males and females

57% were White, 17% Black, 15% Hispanic

about 11,000 were runaway foster children

more than half left home for more than 1 to 6 days

30% traveled 1 to 10 miles from home

30% traveled 11 to 50 miles from home

nearly 99% were returned to their homes

That leaves more than 18,000 that never came back that year.

Another study, reported by Jan Moore,  Unaccompanied and Homeless Youth Review of Literature (1995-2005)  ,  reported 1 million to 1.3 million homeless youth.   I reported on this study earlier, see How many of the Homeless are Youth? 

Also see a forum report I presented in 2006 on the Cobb Faith Partnership site titled:  Homelessness Among Children and Youth – Basic Facts in which 1.35 million homeless children are reported homeless in a given year, according to the National Law Center.    The numbers seem to be centering around 1.3 million with a spread of 300,000 either way.   I feel that the numbers probably fluctuate wildly on any given day in any given year, much like trying to get the average level of a raging river.

Factors Influencing Homelessness and Leaving Home:  Youth most often cite family conflict as the major reason for their homelessness or episodes of running away. A literature review of homeless youth found that a youth’s relationship with a step-parent, sexual activity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, school problems, and alcohol and drug use were strong predictors of family discord.  14% of Foster kids that age out of the system experience homelessness the first year and 25% at sometime overall.   Another report shows 20%.

Of those callers who used the National Runaway Switchboard (a federally-sponsored call center for youth and their relatives involved in runaway incidents) one third attributed family conflict as the reason for their call.  Runaway and homeless youth also describe abuse and neglect as common experiences.  Over 20% of youth in the NISMART-2 reported being physically or sexually abused at home in the prior year
or feared abuse upon returning home.

Congress has funded 102 million dollars for three federal funded programs:

Basic Center Program: To provide outreach, crisis intervention, temporary shelter, counseling, family unification, and after care services to runaway and homeless youth under age 18 and their families.

Transitional Living Program: To support projects that provide homeless youth ages 16 to 21 with stable, safe longer-term residential services up to 18 months (or longer if the youth has not reached age 18), including counseling in basic life skills, interpersonal skills building, educational advancement, job attainment skills, and physical and mental health care. 

Street Outreach Program: To provide street-based outreach and education, including treatment, counseling, provision of information, and referrals for runaway, homeless, and street youth who have been subjected to or are at risk of being subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation.

Those are the facts on homeless youth, the best that I can report at this time.   You can select whatever set of data suits your purpose, but it appears the most current data comes in somewhere between 1 and 1.8 million kids that experience homelessness in any given year, centering around 1.3 million youth.  

There is no good estimate as to how many that amounts to on any given night, but if you are one of those kids, it is way too many. 

Those are our kids out there

Some Special Links:

Click to see all Oldtimer Speaks Out homeless youth articles (35 so far).

Click here if you came here to find Oldtimer’s articles on Homeless Veterans (75 so far)

Grace and Peace,

Oldtimer

A Few Street Kids

Wikipedia defines “street children” this way:

Street children or street urchins are homeless children who live on the street – in particular, those that are not taken care of by parents or other adults. Street children live in abandoned buildings, containers, automobiles, parks, or on the street itself.

That is in contrast to children that are homeless that are living in shelters or taking refuge with friends or relatives.    Below are a few pictures of street kids taken by various photographers around this country who have posted them under a creative commons license.

Market Street, San Francisco

Photo complements of davitydave Photo taken on Market Street, San Francisco.  Creative Commons License   Find it Here

Haight Street San Francisco

Photo Complements of kristiewells Photo taken on Haight Street San Francisco.  Creative Commons License   Find it Here

kristiewells says this about the photo: “We gave them our leftovers from Pork Store Cafe. I asked if I could take their picture which they said was OK, but they were so happy to be eating, I didn’t want to disturb them to get a better photo. “

Homeless in Austin Texas
Photo Courtesy of  dground Photo taken on Sixth Street in Austin Texas Creative Commons License  Find it Here

Homeless in Minnesota

Photo from The Epoch Times, Minnesota

They had this to say about the picture and runaway kids:

According to a recent statewide survey of homeless people in Minnesota, conducted by the Wilder Research Center, for most youths, going back to live with their parents is not a viable solution. Their homeless plight started as a result of their parents. Fearing their chemically dependent or physically or sexual abusive parents, many youths would rather endure the life on the streets than return home. Many have already lived in foster care, detention or treatment centers.

Dave Eha, a 21-year-old homeless youth for the last six months said, “For many out here, it isn’t like a choice. You would hear all the time how someone was molested or physically abused. Many of the kids are forced to become homeless or else live in an abusive situation.”

The Wilder Research report found that homeless kids were:

Five times more likely to have been treated for alcohol or drug problems, although homeless youths are half as likely to report current use of alcohol.

More than three times more likely to have been hit by a date or intimate partner.

Three times more likely to have been physically abused

For girls, 20 times more likely to have been pregnant; for boys 10 times more likely to have had a sexual relationship that resulted in pregnancy.

Youth of color are three to four times more prevalent among the homeless.

Come ON folks, these could have been your kids.

Find a way to help.

Oldtimer

Homeless Youth Project

Homeless Youth Project 

Early on in this blog I wrote a number of articles on homeless youth,  but lately I have written mostly about homeless veterans and also PTSD among veterans.   All of these areas are under-served.   If you do a tag click on “homeless youth”, you will find that despite not having written anything on our youth since August 7th, 27 of the 28 posts that are brought up by WordPress were written by me.   No one seems to care about our youth and few about our homeless veterans.   Well, I care.

I’ve noticed a lot of visitors lately looking at my earlier posts on homeless youth and realized that I’ve been neglecting that area.   I’ve written 32 posts on homeless youth and 72 on homeless veterans, but nothing on the youth lately.   I’ll try to keep this more balanced.  If anyone else wants to jump in and blog about either subject you will be most welcome, since the object here is to shine as much light as possible so someone somewhere with a little clout will put up some muscle and really help.

Homeless Youth  

Photo by Mike Brodie, see link below

Below is an interesting video, actually a slide show set to music and above is a shot from that video taken off of the photographer’s website.  I don’t know whether the person that put it in slide show (realstraycat)  with music is associated with the photographer or not, but I recognized the pictures immediately.  The photographer is a homeless youth himself, having taken most of these pictures with a beat-up old Polaroid camera made in the 1970s.   Simply amazing photos though.

Mike Brodie, the Polaroid Kidd, photographed these pictures which are part of a touring exhibition – “Brodie left home at 18 to travel the rails across America, and found himself spending three years photographing the friends and companions he encountered with a Polaroid SX-70 camera.

“Photography has made me what I am. It pulls me in all directions. It gives and takes friends, and pushes me to move miles and miles. My desire to photograph these people in the beginning is what led me to develop such great relationships with them; some being relationships that will last clear on ’til the day I die. I’m really lucky ’cause I never used to be this social.”

Brodie’s pictures are authentic and show the beauty of some of America’s most overlooked people. These are images captured by a member of the tribe and through a sympathetic lens.” 

The music in the video is moody and sad, as it should be.  The pictures are captivating, nothing risque, but telling the truth:  There is nothing glamorous about being a homeless kid or homeless young adult.  Moments of fun maybe, but mostly misery and danger – always danger. Freedom to eat what you can find, sleep where you dare, fight for your coat and shoes, and hope that somehow you will survive long enough to grow up. 

Traveling together is a form of protection from sexual predators and other gangs, an almost communal way to share needs, food, clothes, survival, and a way to share street smarts that were learned the much too hard way.

realstraycat

Here is a link to some of Mike Brodie’s still photos if you want to see them in all their glory.   Street kids, mostly traveling on the railroad, panhandling on the streets or hanging out in makeshift shacks in the woods.   Beautiful and telling photography.  My Polaroids never looked like these.

Here are some links you may be interested in:

 Homeless Youth – Some Random Facts that May Scare You

Homelessness Among Children and Youth – Basic Facts 

How many of the Homeless are Youth?

Link to all Homeless Youth Articles by Oldtimer

Oldtimer

Homeless Youth

Homeless Kids and School

 Homeless Kids and School

 A Struggle, but Worth It.

There are 1.3 to 1.6 Million homeless kids on the streets of America in an average year.  It is not uncommon for many of these kids to go to school while living in cars, vans, in encampments, shelters, motels, hotels or with relatives while their parents (usually a single parent mom) are toughening it out with no stable place to call home.   Often they do live with that parent in conditions far less than desirable, but homeless nevertheless.

For the most part, homeless kids  have at least one shepherding parent and the entire family is homeless.   According to state departments of education across the country, 35% of homeless children lived in shelters, 34% were in group situations with family or friends, and 23% were in motels or other places in 2000.   Thankfully, these youngsters are guaranteed an education by this country, the good old USA.   

The McKinney-Vento Act applies to all children and youth who do not have a fixed, regular and adequate residence, including children and youth who are: staying with friends or relatives because they lost their housing; awaiting foster placement; or living in emergency or transitional shelters, motels, domestic violence shelters, campgrounds, inadequate trailer parks, cars, public spaces, abandoned buildings and bus/train stations.

Children and youth in homeless situations have the right to:

Go to school, no matter where they live or how long they have lived there;
Choose between the local school where they are living, the school they attended before they lost their housing, or the school where they were last enrolled;
Enroll in school without proof of residency, immunizations, school records, or other documents;
Get transportation to school;
Get all the school services they need;
Be free from harassment and isolation; and
Have disagreements with the school settled quickly.

The following story clipped in part from a news article (read the rest here) tells about the situation in only one state, Illinois.

—————————————————–

School system helps eliminate barriers between homeless, education

Sunday, August 5, 2007

By Holly Wagner

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

BETTY HAS BEEN living in Madonna House since October with her two teenage children. During the month she spent in jail, she lost her apartment and her children stayed with a relative.

“I think it’s been a struggle for them somewhat,” said shelter director Audra Hampton. “It’s sometimes embarrassing at that age. They don’t want anyone to know they are here. … But they seem settled.”

The youngsters have had to adjust to several transitions in the past year, but missing school has not been one of them. Under federal law, all children – whether they have a permanent address – are guaranteed an education.

This summer, the Illinois State Board of Education is working with the state’s shelters to eliminate the barriers homeless students face in getting access to public education.

ISBE data indicates 18,000 students in the state were homeless in 2006. Based on the 750,000 students who are eligible for free or reduced price lunches, ISBE estimates that number is probably closer to 60,000.

The Regional Office of Public Education in Adams and Pike counties collects data on homelessness from its districts to forward to ISBE. During the last school year, the two counties reported that the homeless they served totaled eight in preschool, 45 in elementary school, four in middle or junior high school and nine at high school level, according to Jim Kaiser, the ROE’s school improvement coordinator.

“Every year the number has been going up,” he said. “We’re doing a better job of identifying those kids.”

These students face a range of problems, from finding a way to get to school, to having the appropriate clothing and finding a quiet place to study.

Each school district appoints a go-to person to work with the homeless. Quincy High School Principal Terry Ellerman is the liaison for Quincy schools.

Homeless families don’t always draw attention to their situation, Ellerman said. Sometimes the district finds out about homelessness from a social service agency or identifies it when a student registers.

School secretaries are often the front line in making that determination, noting when the address of a shelter, hotel or a post office box is given or no one is listed as a guardian.

“Home, if we were fortunate, is a place that provides stability in our thinking, it’s a place to feel safe,” said Assistant Superintendent Christie Dickens, formerly principal of Dewey School. “When a child is missing that element, there are a lot of things that could transpire … a lot of fearfulness and behaviors that are associated with that.

“Certainly that child would be somebody we would keep an attentive watch on to see if they needed some emotional support.”

The district helps match homeless families with social service agencies, Dickens said. One of Betty’s children is receiving counseling at Transitions of Western Illinois.

The district liaison helps these students enroll, whether they have transcripts from past schools; makes sure transportation does not prevent them from attending; and helps them to resolve disputes with the school system.

(Please read the rest of the story at the link above)

Oldtimer

Foster Kids – Many face homelessness (1 in 5)

Many foster youths face a future of homelessness

You don’t usually associate foster kids with homelessness.  They are taken in, right?  They have foster parents to look after them, right?  It’s not like they are abandoned, right?   Well, not right at all.   The following story illustrates the problem when foster kids grow out of foster care.  There is that point, you see, where they no longer warrant payments to their parents for their care.  They age out and get a small payment (or none at all) that is supposed to get them a foothold in life as an adult.  But at 18, they are really still just kids.

By Sara Steffens, MEDIANEWS STAFF
Article Last Updated: 05/06/2007
Read the rest of this story hereWhen a foster youth becomes homeless, no one social worker, guardian or child welfare department is to blame. Like most states, California has failed to provide an effective safety net for the more than 4,000 children who age out of its foster care system each year.

In ordinary circumstances, young adults count on continued financial and emotional support from their families and are almost never completely on their own after turning 18. The average parent spends $44,500 on a child after he or she becomes an adult, “and that doesn’t include the kid being still in his room at home,” said Robert Fellmeth, executive director of Children’s Advocacy Institute, based at the University of San Diego School of Law.

By contrast, foster youths get a median of $5,000 in public support after aging out of care. “Most kids don’t get anything,” Fellmeth said. “Most kids get zero. (They get) ‘Hit the streets with your clothes in your trash bag.’”

One study says that at least one in five former foster children becomes homeless within a few years of becoming a legal adult. Other research, using broader criteria for homelessness, sets the figure as high as half. In recent years, a number of programs have begun trying to help better prepare foster children for independence.But public and volunteer services remain fragmented, sporadic and largely symbolic, Fellmeth said. “The problem is scale,” he said. “The problem is (lawmakers) want to feel good and not spend the money.” In the face of tough odds, some former foster youths do manage to finish their education and build productive lives, many with the help of service programs.

Foster kids are out there too

If you are interested in articles on homeless youth, there is a link to the right in the blogroll to all homeless youth articles.  For all my posts click on the Front Page link at the top.

National Stats for Runaway Youth

The National Runaway Switchboard provides education and solution-focused interventions, offers non-sectarian, non-judgmental support, respects confidentiality, collaborates with volunteers, and responds to at-risk youth and their families 24 hours a day.    Call 1-800-RUNAWAY
National Runaway Switchboard http://www.nrscrisisline.org/
(Statistics reflect only actual crisis calls – nationwide)
Adult calls ….. 1038
Youth calls …..15126
Total calls ….. 16164
Youth Status at Time of Call

    Contemplating running away…..12%
    Youth in crisis ………………..32%
    *Runaway ………………..48%
    *Throwaway ………………..4%
    *Homeless ………………..4%
    **Youth on the street ….. 56%

Reported Age Of Caller

    under 12 …..1%
    12 ………. 2%
    13 ………. 6%
    14 ………. 9%
    15 ………. 15%
    16 ……….21%
    17 ……….23%
    18 ……….10%
    19 ……….. 6%
    20 ……….. 4%
    21 ………. 3%
    Youth previously run (yes) …. . 32%
    youth previously run (no) ………. 44%
    unknown ………………………………..24%

Problems Identified by Callers

    Family Dynamics ..29%
    Peer/Social ……………… 14%
    School/Education ……..10%
    Mental Health …………. .. 9%
    Physical Abuse ……… … 6%
    Youth Services ……….. . . 5%
    Alcohol/Drug Use …… …5%
    Economics ……………….. 4%
    Emotional/Verbal Abuse 4%
    Judicial System ………….3%
    Transportation ……………….3%
    Health ………………………… 3%
    Sexual Abuse/Assault …..2%
    Neglect ……………………………2%
    GLBTQ …………………………..1%

Whereabouts of Youth Who is the Subject

    Home ………………….29%
    Unknown to Caller ….. 23%
    Friend ……………………..17%
    Relative ……………………..6%
    Street/Pay Phone ………6%
    Shelter ……………………..3%
    Other …………………………3%
    Unknown to Liner ……..3%
    Greyhound ………………..2%
    Recent Acquaintance …2%
    Police/Detention …………2%
    School ………………………..2%
    Work ……………………………1%
    Pimp/Dealer ………………..1%

(Example) Calls from Georgia, local area codes follow
Area ………….calls
Code
404 GA ….. 1053 calls in 2006
678 GA ……..320
770 GA ……. 578

Click for All Homeless Youth Articles 

Homeless Youth – Some Random Facts That May Scare You

Some random facts that may scare you:

Estimates are that one in seven youths will leave home by the age of 18 (National Runaway Switchboard, 2001).

 “Every year, assault, illness, and suicide claim the lives of approximately 5,000 runaway and homeless youth” (The National Runaway Switchboard, 2001, p. 2). 

 Young people on the streets find it very difficult to meet their basic needs, so they may also resort to survival sex to provide for themselves. 

 According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, more than half of all runaways are girls (Hammer, et al., 2002). Makes you want to cry

The National Network for Youth (2003) reports that most homeless youth living on the streets are boys. Boys are more likely to be kicked out and girls more likely to run away, possibly because boys are more likely to engage in deviant behaviors that cause parents to kick them out and girls are more likely to experience sexual abuse that prompts them to run away.

The same abuse continues on the streets as girls are more likely to be raped and boys are more likely to be physically assaulted (Cauce, et al., 2000; MacLean, Embry,& Cauce, 1999).

Ensign and Bell (2004) found the average length of homelessness differed significantly according to whether the youth lived in a shelter or on the streets. For those living in shelters, the average length of homelessness was four months (range one to nine months), but the average length for those on the streets was three years (range one month to eight years).

One in eight youth under 18 will leave home and become a street person in need of services (Raleigh-DuRoff, 2004), and 40 percent do not return home

Do you have children or grandchildren or neighbors with children at risk?   Do something about it before it is too late.  Get help now.

I hope the picture above makes you want to cry.  

Oldtimer’s comment:  Click for All the Homeless Youth articles