Youth homelessness is a disturbing societal problem. An estimate by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention places the figure at just under 1.7 million homeless and runaway juveniles in America as of 2002. No one likes to think of kids, unsupervised and vulnerable, living on the streets, but it is a problem that bears looking at. How did these kids become what are known as "unaccompanied" youth? Several factors contribute to youth homelessness.
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Physical, Emotional and Sexual Abuse
Many children who experience abuse in the home become homeless when they run away to put an end to an unbearable situation. Rather than endure the abuse any longer, they take their chances on the streets. Beaten or forced into unwanted sex by a family member, they attempt to end the situation and often find themselves with nowhere to live.
Teens with substance abuse problems are often turned out into the street by family and friends. Tired of seeing their loved one under the influence, violent, ill or desperate, the family may turn the child out in order to end the pain. While removing the child from the home may defuse the immediate situation, it often creates more problems when the teen turns to even riskier behaviour in order to obtain the abused substance and to survive on the streets.
According to DoSomething.org, 10 per cent of all homeless and runaway girls are pregnant. Many are kicked out by their family when they reveal their state. Others choose to run away rather than disclosing the pregnancy to their family. At the very time when they need support and protection, these girls find themselves with no one to turn to.
When many teens come out of the closet and reveal their true sexual orientation, their families, unable to accept this development, turn them out with nowhere to go. DoSomething.org estimates that approximately 25 per cent of all youth who are homosexual, bisexual and transgendered are homeless after being rejected by family members.
Many youth who are homeless were in untenable foster care situations previously. Neglect or abuse in a foster home sometimes drives the teen into fleeing the premises. Being turned out of the foster care system with nowhere to go also contributes to the emergence of homeless youth into the streets.
When a family becomes homeless, it often has an even greater negative impact on the youth. Families sometimes become separated during this trying time due to rules in shelters and transitional housing, or by the intervention of child welfare workers.
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