By Sidney Harada and Ashley Rojas
Considering that the holidays are approaching, we have a lot to be thankful for. Notably a roof over your head, food in your stomach, and the access to an education. Numerous people may not have these privileges; many of these people are teens just like yourself. World Homeless Day is an annual occasion on the 10th of December to bring attention to this issue.
Homeless teens are young people who are oftentimes living on their own, without a permanent or stable place to call their home. When some people think of homeless youth, they usually think of young people who live in shelters or on the streets. But they could also be staying in weekly or daily motels, living “doubled up” with another family, living out of their car, or residing with friends and sleeping on the couch. While there is no clear accurate count of the exact number of homeless youth, it is calculated that as many as 2.5 million teens in the United States are homeless per year.
How do teens end up in these situations? Some of the reasons as to why teens become homeless are: experiencing financial hardship; running away; getting kicked out of their homes; aging out of foster care; being abandoned, abused or neglected; suffering from substance abuse; or experiencing the death of a family member or guardian. Nowadays, it is common for many homeless teens or children to become homeless abruptly. According to the article, "Homeless Youth" from the National Youth Outreach and Prevention Program’s Safe Place, homeless teens and children are completely different from homeless adults because they often have not learned the essential life skills needed to live on their own, like how to drive, ride a bus, get a job, or pay bills.
Homeless youth are at a heightened risk of harm in relation to other teens their age; they are also more than likely to undergo mental illness, experience poor health, drop out of school, and become involved with or can become victims of criminal activity. Life on the streets is dangerous and unpredictable, leaving these teens vulnerable to being exploited, abused, or killed.
Mrs. Gonzalez, the middle and high school assistant principal, gives her take on teenage homelessness: “it breaks my heart to know that teens are going through these horrible situations." Mrs. Gonzalez also gives some examples of what others can do to help: "We can give plenty of advice, we connect them and offer them as much support as possible and connect to many resources. Shelters, clothing, food, basic hygiene products. Counseling them based on age.”
If you know someone that is affected by teenage homelessness, here is some advice you can give them: don't feel guilty or ashamed. Whatever happened to put you in this situation was out of your control, and you have many people who care and will give you their full support. Allowing those people know you are homeless will allow them to help you. There are places that help homeless teens stay in school, and provide access to food, showers, and medical care, and a safe place to sleep. Remember, you are not alone. Don’t be hesitant to ask for aid.