Homeless Youth in America


HomelessYouth in America

Jewas 15 years old when she escaped from her only family member know toher, her brother. Her brother was abusive and she could no longerlive with him. She escaped from her home with the hope of joining themilitary. Because she did not have a job, she could not afford a homeand therefore was accommodated by her friends. This was notsustainable, and therefore started sleeping in public libraries. Tostay save, she stayed awake the whole night in the street. James onthe other hand became homeless when his mother, her only caretaker,died while he was 14 years old. Since he did not have another memberof the family, he started caring for himself. He did not get helpfrom children welfare institutions. He had no option but to sleep inthe street. Irene mother was unable to deal with the challenge ofdrug addiction and thus, unable to take care of her psychological andphysical needs. As a result, Irene left the protection of her motherat the age of 13, together with her elder sister, aged 17 years. Dueto drug addiction, their mother did not realize that they hadescaped.

Theseare some of the common stories that have become common in theAmerican society. It is estimated that at least fifty thousand youthsin the United States sleep for at least six months. On a singlenight, almost two hundred thousand youths are likely to sleep on thestreet. It is estimated that there are over five hundred thousandhomeless youths in America, who experienced homelessness for at leasta week. Four out of five homeless youths are below the age of 18years. Although these statistics are inaccurate, mainly due to thecomplex nature of the problem, the figures suggest that homelessnessamong the youth is an important social problem. The main reason whyit is relatively difficult to determine the exact number of homelessyouths in the United States is because they are unlikely to stay atthe same point for a long time, compared to more elderly homelessindividuals. Homeless youths are always on the move. Additionally,they are less likely to share their experiences or disclose theirhomeless status (Aratani &amp Cooper, 2015). This paper looks at thefactors that contribute to the high number of homeless youths. Also,the paper proposes at appropriate solution to the problem.

Factorsthat contribute to homeless youths

Usually,no one becomes homeless by choice. This is despite the fact thatmajority of homeless individuals are forced by circumstances to leavethe comfort of their homes or families. There are many factors thatcontribute to homelessness among youths. The family is a criticalunit of a society. Thus, the increased number of dysfunctionalfamilies in the modern society is a major cause of homelessness amongthe youths (Farrugia, 2015). For example, my homeless individuals,including the youth and the elderly experience some form of violence,abuse, family conflicts, death of caretakers, neglect and poverty inthe family. These factors are likely to force individuals to leaverun away from their families and end up being homeless. Sexual abusehas also been identified as a major cause of youth homelessness inthe United States. It is estimated that between 20 and 40 percent ofhomeless youths who escaped from their families or homes weresexually abused. The trauma as well as other physical and emotionaleffects of sexual abuse increases the likelihood of the young losingtrust with the family and running away (Thompson, 2010).

Agingout of foster care is also a major cause of homelessness among theyouths. A large number of individuals between the age of 18 and 21years leaving foster care facilities experience some form ofhomelessness. For example, with up to 36 percent of youth leavingfoster care facilities at risk of homelessness, this translates toabout 28,000 youths in 2010. The criminal justice system has alsocontributed to the high number of homeless youths. If youths leavingfoster care institutions are at risk of becoming homeless, youthsleaving the juvenile justice system are at a higher risk.Additionally, youths in the street are more likely to be involved inpetty offences to survive (Thompson, 2010). After incarceration, theyoung people have nowhere to go, and end up in the street. Thiscontributes to homelessness as well as increased cases of recidivismamong juvenile offenders. The ultimate cause of homelessness in themodern society is economic hardship. Poverty and increased cost ofliving, together with the above mentioned factors has resulted intoan increase in the number of households and individuals who are notable to support themselves. This is in addition to lack of affordableand sustainable housing (Nesmith, 2006).

Dealingwith the problem

Majorityof the problems that result into increased incidences of homelessnessin youths and other populations can be handled. This means that thereis a solution to homelessness in youths. Dealing with the familyrelated problems associated with homelessness in young people is themost important approach to this problem. Dealing with homelessnessshould focus on the family factors that cause individuals to run awayfrom their families. If homeless youths with families and relativesare eliminated in the streets through unification with theirfamilies, and the challenges facing families in the modern world areresolved, the challenges associated with homeless youths willsignificantly reduce. Teenagers and young adults are less likely toleave their homes if they have good relationship with their parentsand relatives (Burt et al, 2007). Additionally, if the familyinstitution is empowered through adequate access to basic needs suchas shelter, health care, clothing and food, youths who are homelessbecause of economic challenges will be eliminated in the equation.The effectiveness of this program will be dependent on otherinitiative that provides social and economic empowerment. Forexample, providing training and employment opportunity to homelessyouths and their families will most probably eliminate them from thestreets (Gibson, 2011). Other programs such as avoidable housing orhousing the youths in foster facilities can also be used to deal withhomelessness. These are based on the view that family challenges arenot the only causes of homelessness. However, these programs do notdeal with the root cause of the problem and thus cannot be consideredto be the most appropriate approaches.


Homelessnessis a major challenge in the modern society. The increased number ofhomeless youths in the modern society is a more critical socialproblem. There are many problems in the society that causehomelessness in youths. Family related problems such as economicproblems, dysfunction families and abuse are the main cause ofhomelessness in youths. Dealing with the problems from the familylevel is the most appropriate approach to the problem.


Aratani,Y. &amp Cooper, J. (2015). The Effects of Runaway-Homeless Episodeson High School Dropout. YouthSociety47(2), pp 173-198,

Burt,M. et al (2007). Homelessness:prevention, strategies and effectiveness.New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Gibson,K. (2011). Streetkids: homeless youth, outreach, and policing New York`s streets.New York: New York University Press.

Lee,B. &amp Greif, M. J. (2008). Homelessness and Hunger. Journalof Health and Social Behavior49(1), 3-19.

Nesmith,A. (2006). Predictors of Running Away from Family, Foster Care. ChildWelfare85(3): 585-609.

Thompson,B. (2010). Homeless Youth: Characteristics, Contributing Factors, andService Options, Journalof Human Behavior in the Social Environment,20:2, 193-217.

Farrugia,D. (2015). Youthhomelessness in late modernity: reflexive identities and moral worth.Singapore: Springer.