Why you should think about youth homelessness this Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week by Deirdre Walsh, NCH Intern
Youth homelessness is this year’s central theme for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. While the issues associated with living in poverty are difficult for all, homeless youths encounter unique obstacles when trying to secure housing, employment, health care, and emergency services. Discrimination and a lack of opportunities put American youths at great risk to be on the streets without access to shelter, appropriate resources, and protection. The National Campaign for Youth Shelter seeks to provide all young people, ages 24 and under with immediate access to safe shelter, affirming the principles that no young person in the United States should be left homeless in the streets. This commitment calls attention to the causes of youth homelessness and its troublesome existence in the United States today.
Each year, as many as 500,000 unaccompanied youths experience homelessness. Many homeless young people have fled abusive homes, left or aged out the foster care system without resources, or been rejected by their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Increased discrimination against the homeless youth population is leading thousands to life on the street and the need is greater than ever for shelter beds and resources. The National Campaign for Youth Shelter calls for an immediate commitment of 22,000 shelter beds and services to match the impending influx of youths requesting services. The campaign also calls for a more accurate and comprehensive effort to count the number of homeless youth in the nation in order to determine the number of beds that are needed over the next decade. It is only through understanding the ongoing issue and realities of homeless youth that their needs can be address.
Schools and community groups can support this campaign. When planning events for this year’s H&H Week, event organizers can shine an important light on vulnerable youth populations. NCH is encouraging groups to take actions that will be matched around the country to start a movement that will keep fighting long after Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Find your local shelter that provides resources specifically to homeless youth and see what they need or what resources they lack. Advocate on the behalf of discriminated LGBTQ youths to your local, state, and federal officials. Help your community know what resources are needed and raise funds and materials for your local shelter. Our society cannot sustain the lack of resources for homeless youth. There is only 1 bed available for every 125 homeless youth. Awareness and advocacy this Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week can help to increase the number of youth shelter beds increase and decrease the number of homeless youth on the streets.
Download the Planning Guide for advice on organizing youth-focused awareness events.