Inspiring Stories - About Homeless Teens
Good Morning! Here's the Monday Morning Blog!
Have you had a chance to touch base with your teen? Check in with them and ask them if they need help with anything. Be open to what they may bring up to you and work with them to come up with solutions.
November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, approximately 30% of people experiencing homelessness are younger than age 24. The trauma of homelessness, even for a short period of time, can have major effects on a youth's future development. These young people will have significantly higher rates of emotional, behavioral and immediate and long-term health problems.
With this kind of statistic, we as parents, mentors, and caring adults need to start talking to teens and young adults about this issue and ways to help and prevent it.
This month I plan to provide some information about this rapidly growing issue and ways to help these teens resources to help. Be sure to check out my mentor page to find out how I am doing just that.
Homeless Teens - Their stories
When I started looking into this issue, it really struck me that there were teens out there having to make it happen for themselves. I live in Minnesota where winter isn't a great thing to have to deal with when you can't come home to a nice warm house with dinner waiting for you.
Did you see the quote that is featured on my mentor page this month? I also did a reel about it on Instagram.
"You see an abandoned chair on the street and think 'it has the potential to be something beautiful'. You see a homeless youth on the street and you think 'don't make eye contact'."
What is wrong with this statement? There are some harsh realities that we must face in this society. The fact that we have homeless teenagers out there is one of them.
This week I am going to feature the stories of two teens who have worked through homelessness and made themselves into the great people they are today. The fact that they were able to do this is to be commended, but there are ways to prevent them from having to go through homelessness at all.
Each teenager that goes through this has an unique story to tell.
Stories from the Street: A Response to Youth Homelessness
This was the name of an article I found on Shared Justice website which talked about teen homelessness. The writer, Chelsea Maxwell, talks about her experience interviewing homeless youth who were living in a women's crisis center for this online article. Here are a couple of the stories she shared.
A hug is always exchanged when Nicholas is around. When we first met in a conference room with pale yellow peeling paint at a local community center, he was introduced to me as a passionate advocate and mentor. After a few moments of conversation, his infectious smile and laugh make you feel like you are with an old friend. Nicholas has a confidence about him that brings power to his testimony. As a young boy, he was witness to much violence in his home and community. When he came out as gay to his family, he became a victim of the violence. Still, the known fear of the mental, physical, and sexual violence at home seemed less frightening than living on the streets or in shelters. That choice was soon taken away from him when his father kicked him out. Nicholas slept in shelters when he could and in parks when he had no other option. He battled depression and post-traumatic stress. Additionally, the violence and exploitation did not stop: “Everyone wants something from you, and if it’s not cash, it’s sex.”
Did you know that 40% of homeless youth identify themselves as LGBT. This is a staggering number of teens and young adults who like Nicholas above, may have become homeless because they identify as LGBT. In our role as parents and caring adults we may have to stop and think about how we view our teens and young adults and decide if we are really accepting them for who they are and not trying to put them into an image of what we want them to be.
Samuel was twenty years old when I met him, and I was immediately curious by the way he carried himself. He had almost perfect posture except he rarely looked up from his lap. His shoulders were broad, his jaw square, and he had a voice deep. If I had passed him on the street, I might have mistaken him for a grown adult. He spoke infrequently, but passionately as he shared his thoughts or anecdotes from his life. Samuel entered foster care after a brief experience in the juvenile justice system. He bounced around group homes before he turned eighteen and decided that the only way he was going to get out was to enlist. He quickly realized that he was not well-suited for the army, but tried to persevere. Several months in, he was told he lacked certain necessary characteristics and was discharged. While awaiting exit, he was not allowed to use the phone or computer to make plans. When he was allowed to leave, he had nowhere to go.
In Samuel's story, he seems to be the typical teen who gets into trouble and starts making decisions for his live based on what he knows and not with help or support from a parent or caring adult to help him transition from the juvenile justice system or the military.
These stories are not necessarily inspiring and we normally see, they are real situations that happened. We could hope that Nicholas wouldn't have been in an abusive home and had a negative response to him telling his family he was gay and we could hope that Samuel had a better experience in foster care. But, I think they are inspiring in the fact that these teens got into situations where becoming homeless was the only option available to them that they could see and they took it. In next week's post, I will talk about a resource that can help teens when they find themselves in this situation.
What can we do to help?
These stories should inspire us to want to do something to help. Like I talked about in last week's post, Teen Challenge - Teen Homelessness, youth and young adults need stable housing, supportive connections to caring adults, and access to mainstream services that may 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.
We need to make these services available to the teens who need them and not get caught up in definitions of who qualifies and who doesn't. All teens should have a chance to be successful and should be able to have access to help to get there.
But like some of the other issues that 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 in these cases must be open to listening to each other, make compromises and seek outside intervention where appropriate.
The Way Series on sale next week
Looking for a couple of good teen coming-of-age reads focusing on teen challenges? Check out The Way Series on sale November 28- 30, 2022! Grab a copy of either The Hard Way or Shawn's Way e-book for just 99 cents! It's a perfect way to catch up before the third book, The Street's Way, is released in 2023! And its a great gift idea for that teen or young adult who likes to read books in a digital format.
Follow this link to my books tab to learn more about the series and to pick up your copies!