Youth make up a significant portion of the homeless population in the United States, with about 1.5 million youths having slept on the street at some point within a 12 month period. Although there are many reasons why youth end up living in shelters or on the streets, homeless youth can be put into three specific categories: youths who were forcefully evicted from home, youths who ran away from home and youths who graduated out of the child welfare system.
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Youths Forcefully Evicted from Home
About 50% of homeless youth were forced to leave their homes by parents, relatives or other primary caregivers. Although reasons for forceful eviction from home vary, three primary reasons are drug use (both in parents and youth), economic reasons, mental health issues (both in parents and youth) and parental neglect.
Youths Who Run Away From Home
Many homeless youths run away from home. The National Network for Youth reports that a majority of youth who run away from home have been victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse. Drug use, both by youths and by parents or guardians, can cause youths to feel that it is no longer safe to live at home. Unplanned pregnancies, mental health issues (again, both in guardians and in the youths themselves) and conflicts with family about gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered sexual orientation are also common factors in a youth's decision to run away from home
Youths Released from Child Welfare Programs
A large percentage of youths are homeless because they have "aged out" or "graduated" from child welfare or juvenile justice programs. Youths who leave juvenile justice programs, foster homes or orphanages often have no immediate family who are willing or able to help them transition into adulthood. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, youth who age out of the welfare system are often released without housing or any clear source of income or support.
Although there are many reasons for youth homelessness, most reasons come down to one specific factor: family breakdown Although there are no simple answers in solving the problem of youth living on the streets, understanding the causes and categories of homeless youth can help individuals to see the warning signs and address these problems early.
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