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We need an integrated approach to serving homeless youth: A commentary by Melissa MacDonnell

December 13, 2021

Boy_depression_homeless_violence_GettyImages_MotortionFalling through systemic gaps: The invisible plight of youth experiencing homelessness

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 4.2 million young people in the United States were homeless. According to the Voices of Youth Count initiative at the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall, one in thirty adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 and one in ten young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 had experienced some form of homelessness in any given twelve-month period.

You might ask: Where are these youth? They are, quite literally, right in front of us. They’re blending in near college campuses or at bus stations. They’re moving from one friend’s couch to another’s. In too many cases, they’re exchanging security for exploitation. Often, youth experiencing homelessness don’t want to be found. They’re running from families that have abused them and systems that have failed them. By the time they’re on the streets, their young lives have been mired in loss.

The “experience” of youth homelessness is not one that is equally shared. LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely as their peers to report homelessness. Black or African-American youth face an 83 percent higher risk of being homeless. Over a third of homeless youth were in the foster care system, and 35 percent of homeless youth have experienced the death of at least one parent or primary caregiver.

While our nation’s attention has understandably been on older adults with the highest risk of mortality from COVID-19, recent reports illustrate untold stories of its impact among young people: alarming levels of school absenteeism, hunger, housing insecurity, and mental health challenges. When the COVID wave recedes, it’s bound to leave far too many young lives devastated in its wake....

Read the full commentary by Melissa MacDonnell, president of Liberty Mutual Foundation.

 

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