DISCUSSION: How Can We Protect Youth From Homelessness?

donowhomeless1Featured Media Resource: [AUDIO]Young Adults Seeking Public Housing? Good Luck.” (NPR/Youth Radio)


Youth Radio reporter Kasey Saeturn examines the growing population of homeless youth in San Francisco where as many as 1,600 young adults are without a home on any given night. Skyrocketing rental prices in major cities and increased difficulty for college students to qualify for public housing has led non-profit organizations to start building housing for homeless youth who might otherwise fall through the cracks.


Do Now

Given the rising cost of housing throughout the country, what protections should young people receive to protect them from homelessness?#DoNowHomeless

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Be sure to include @KQEDedspace and #DoNowHomeless. Remember: Back up your argument with supporting evidence. Link to legitimate sources that support your view.

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Learn More About Teen Homelessness

A 2015 Housing and Urban Development survey conducted during a one-night national count in January found that “about one-third of all homeless people” were children and youth (age 24 and under), and 7 percent of the total homeless population were unaccompanied youth.Substance abuse and lack of good jobs play a role in these stats.

Youth also have additional special circumstances that can push them into homelessness. Some may have “aged out” of the foster care system, fled domestic violence or had trouble reintegrating into society after time in the juvenile justice system. All of these factors are compounded by skyrocketing housing costs in major urban areas.

The Bay Area has the distinction of being one of the most expensive rental markets in country (San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are ranked 1, 4 and 5 nationally). And while shared housing is an option, it doesn’t seem to be making that much of a difference in the housing market: more than 19 percent of U.S. households are considered  shared housing situations, according to 2011 Census data. In California, it’s nearly 26 percent.

Large urban areas, like the Bay Area, are also home to a lot of colleges and universities, making them popular destinations for young adults.

Only about 13% of college students live on campus, according to a 2014 study by the Wisconsin Hope Lab. The same study reports that more than half of all college students live off campus. And if you’re in the midst of trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for college, here’s some bad news: universities seriously underestimate the cost of living for students, according to the study.

A few years ago, it actually got more complicated for students to get assistance for housing once it was revealed that well-to-do college athletes were living in Section 8 public housing. In response, the agencies which managed the housing were set up to count financial aid assistance from schools as income. This meant aid counted against student eligibility for those who did manage to qualify for the housing in the first place. As is often the case with government efforts to correct what was seen as an oversight, the solution created another set of issues—in this case removing incentives for real estate developers to build housing for students. That’s led to a bipartisan bill called the Housing for Homeless Students Act of 2014 which has been in committee since then.

The slow rate of legislative change has led students to rely on non-profit organizations, like Mercy Housing, to help them cover the housing gap.

What can be done so that teens and young college students don’t become homeless?


Do Next

Do Next takes the online conversation to the next level: these are suggestions for ways to go out into your community and investigate how the topic featured in this Do Now plays out in people’s lives. Use digital storytelling tools and social media to share your story and take action. Make sure to tag your creations with #DoNowHomeless.

  • As a class, find your neighborhood on this map. Discuss the following: How does the worth of $100 in your community compare to others? How do you think your life would be different if you lived in an area in the country with a much higher or lower cost of living? What do you think causes the difference between the most expensive and least expensive areas?

More Resources

ARTICLE: A Bill of Rights for Foster Children (Huffington Post)
Kevin Ryan, the president and CEO of prominent charity and advocacy organization Covenant House, has spent years helping and advocating for homeless youth. In his Huffington Post article he suggests an unconventional way to reduce the number of young people who end up in homeless shelters: pass legislation to support the education of foster kids.

AUDIO: Stories From An Emancipated Minor (KPLU)
It’s one thing to fantasize about running away from home when you’re a kid. But legally separating from one’s parents before you turn 18 isserious, and few minors will follow through with the process of emancipation. At just 16 years old,  Logan Hofkamp became one of those few. In this audio clip from KPLU, he discusses what he’s learned since he decided to “cash in” the last of his youth and become his own legal guardian.

WEBSITE: Youth Homelessness (The National Coalition for the Homeless)
The NCH is a network of groups and individuals working to prevent and end homelessness while advocating for those currently without homes. Here you’ll find statistics, resources, and advocacy tips about youth homelessness.

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