As we enter the last month of our Mental Health Awareness quarter, for this week’s blog, I will focus on a growing issue that affects teenagers, homelessness and addiction. When I think about homelessness, I imagine families who were homeless, which is a problem. But what we are talking about this month is teens and young adults who are homeless and out on their own.
Did you know that one in 10 young adults ages 18-25, and at least one in 30 adolescents ages 13-17, experience some form of homelessness unaccompanied by a parent or guardian over the course of a year? This is just one statistic that peaked my interest to look further into this teen challenge.
Addiction and homelessness – you may wonder how these are connected, but according to the American Addiction Centers, most research shows that 2/3 of homeless people have a history of drug and alcohol abuse issues.
In the United States, a homeless youth is someone who is under the age of 21 and is unable to safely live with a relative and has no other safe alternative living arrangement.
Youth homelessness is more common than you might think and doesn’t always mean young people living on the streets or in shelters. Homelessness also includes couch surfing or staying with friends or relatives, which is a temporary answer to what may be a long-term issue.
According to a study on youth homelessness done by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, their Voices of Youth Count (PDF) reveals “a scenario of American youth homelessness in which a shifting population of young people uses temporary situations to get by when they cannot stay in a home of their own.”
So, why do teens become homeless in the first place?
Why do teens and young adults become homeless?
According to the National Network for Youth, the vast majority of youth do not become homeless by choice. For most youths, instability in their current living situation forces them out on the streets before they are adults. The following family experiences can lead to a youth finding themselves homeless
- child abuse and or neglect
- domestic violence
- parental substance abuse
- family conflict
Sometimes, teens or young adults are asked to leave their homes because of something they may or may not be doing. Maybe it is because they aren’t respecting their parents or using drugs after being asked to stop.
Teens become homeless because they feel that is better than their current situation at home. Many teens get kicked out of their homes because of an addiction they are not getting help for. – Jewel
Teen homelessness is not a one-sided issue. It is caused by both parents and teens. The reasons they become homeless are typically not easy problems to solve. They may take hard work on both sides and require outside intervention to work out. For teens, it may seem like leaving home is the only option to get what they want, but it may not be.
Homelessness includes many types of teens
Homeless teens come from many walks of life and become homeless for many reasons. Some of the teens who experience homelessness are
- dealing with having a sexual preference that their parents cannot accept
- becoming pregnant
- running away from home because of an issue that their parent is having with addiction
- they have been asked to leave because of not respecting their parents.
- are being human trafficked.
- dealing with addiction
Teens who find themselves dealing with these issues will need help and support to get their lives on track and become successful.
Teen Homelessness and Addiction
You may wonder how these are connected, but according to the American Addiction Centers, most research shows that 2/3 of homeless people have a history of drug and alcohol abuse issues. Some homeless teens are a part of this statistic.
Teen addiction can be a contributing factor to the cycle of homelessness.
- Substance abuse impairs judgment, decreases motivation, and strains relationships with family and friends.
- They have been told by their parents several times to get help for their addiction.
- Teens tell their parents that they don’t understand; the world is better when they are living the lifestyle that includes the substance use.
- Thinking that living on the street is better than dealing with their parents not understanding, the teen leaves home.
How do we break this cycle?
What can we do to help?
So, what can be done to end their homelessness? Youth and young adults need stable housing, supportive connections to caring adults, and access to mainstream services to place them on a path to long-term success. Reunifying youth with family or a support system, when safe and appropriate, should be at the core of any approach.
But like many other issues teens face, open communication with their parents and caring adults could go a long way to reducing the numbers of teens who are homeless in the first place. But, both teens and adults must be open to listening to each other, make compromises, and seek outside intervention where appropriate.
Living on the street may seem like the answer to them. But what would happen if we as parents and caring adults were more involved in their lives? We could help them find an alternative solution. Maybe some help for their addiction and the underlying issues causing it.