La prensa

Homelessness doesn’t discriminate why should you?

Created: 19 September, 2014
Updated: 26 July, 2022
3 min read

By Angelica Torres

Most people will ignore the teenage boy asking for money at the freeway entrance or the girl sitting at the edge of a busy city street with a sign: homeless and hungry; please help. Some may be disgusted by them, thinking that these kids are lazy and should get a job instead of trying to sponge off everybody else; or rationalize that they will not give money that would only help feed their addictions. The compassionate ones will pat their pockets to find any spare change they can find.

There is a lot of prejudice around home-lessness. I’ve heard many voice their opinion that people are homeless because of their own doing. They made decisions that ultimately made them homeless. I remember when I was younger; I had some misconceptions about homelessness. I couldn’t figure out how people could end up in that situation. I found that it was mostly my ignorance that prevented me from understanding. There are so many different reasons why people end up homeless.

According to the National Runaway Safeline, there is between 1.6 and 2.8 million homeless youth living on the streets. Some teens end up homeless due to family problems. Some suffer from abuse at home. Others deal with psychological disorders or substance abuse issues of a parent or both. In recent years, the number of teens that are living in the streets as a result of ‘coming out’ is increasing. Some families do not agree with the life style or life choice of their child and cannot deal with their youth being different. There is a large number of youth that become homeless after they age out of the foster care system.

These youth usually have little or no income support and limited housing options.They are usually less prepared than other youth from the same age and therefore less likely to attend college and find a steady job. Aged out youth are more likely to become homeless than any other youth group and they are more likely to remain homeless longer.

Youth along with their families, may become homeless due to financial problems. Families may fall into difficult financial situations because they have no access to affordable housing or are not able to get or maintain a job. For many of these youth being out on the street is more bearable than being at home. Unfortunately some of these kids get involved with illegal drugs and crime. Alcohol and drugs are ways they choose to cope and deal with their problems. There are various reasons why kids end up homeless but it comes down to one thing: lack of support. Ultimately the lack of support is the common factor in many of the cases that many youth choose to run away.

The homeless system needs to be improved. What can you do about it? Individuals can help reduce this growing problem either by becoming foster parents or volunteering in organizations that offer services to homeless youth. The greatest impact is for us to come together in support of H.R. 2955; the Runaway and Homeless Youth Inclusion Act. This act is asking for additional funding in direct support of services recently offered to homeless youth. These services include addressing the health, behavioral, and emotional problems that youth experience because of lack of sufficient resources, the need for temporary shelters and services, as well as services that provide youth development. As a community, we should be able to help the youth that are the future of America.

Angelica Torres, MSW graduate student and a mother to three children.

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