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HuffPo Op-Ed: Yes, We Can End Youth Homelessness!

  • Opinion

At the beginning of June I attended the second Policy Briefing to End Youth Homelessness at the White House, co-sponsored by True Colors Fund. I can not speak for everyone who attended the event, but for me the highlight of the day was hearing a panel of youth speak about their experiences struggling to overcome homelessness. As one young man put it, “nobody chooses being homeless.” And I think that is the first thing that people need to understand about youth homelessness. These young people do not want to be on the streets.

About 18 months ago I wrote another blog where I tried to detail who homeless youth are and why they often end up on the streets. I won’t go into all that detail here, but it is important to keep a few facts in mind. There are nearly 2 million youth age 13 to 24 who experience at least one night homeless every year. Nearly 40% of these youth are LGBT, often being thrown out of religiously conservative families. Nearly 40% of homeless youth have been in the foster care system at some point. And, most upsetting of all, nearly 80% of these youth have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence at some time in their young lives. It is also important to remember that homeless youth hide in plain sight. Very few of them have serious mental illness issues or chronic substance abuse issues. So unlike many chronically homeless adults, these youth are able to make their way through our city neighborhoods largely unnoticed by the rest of us.

So why is it that I think this enormous problem can be solved? The answer is simple. Over the past two years, we’ve seen many communities either end or radically curb the levels of homelessness experienced by veterans. Even in communities like Los Angeles, where the number of people living outdoors has increased over the past few years, veteran homelessness is at an all time low. If we can solve veteran homelessness, we can solve youth homelessness.

Read more at Huffington Post.