Availability of housing facilities is of significance in the life of children/youths in the society. Homeless youths are the individuals that are under the age of eighteen years who lacks consistent place to stay or whose residence is a private or public shelter that is meant to give a temporal accommodation. America is the most industrialized and a superpower in the word but it has millions of residents who live below the poverty line that is set by the United Nations. Many of these people are young people/youths who lack proper shelter and they are therefore homeless Even though it is difficult to establish the exact population of the homeless youths in the United States of America, the Department of Justice through the office of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention estimated the population to be about 1682900 and these youths are in the age bracket of 15 and 17 years.
Also, the National Coalition for the Homeless has carried out some studies and released a report which shows that the youth homelessness is continuously increasing in America.
Causes of youth homelessness in America
The foundation of the factors that leads to youth homelessness in America is based on the deficiency of the necessary basic requirements. Some of the causes of homelessness include the absence of social support to the youths, presence of economic insecurity, lack of affordable shelter/housing facilities, divorce, drug or alcohol abuse, lack of emergency help, existence of various forms of violence in the homes, some health conditions and behaviors and the participation of youths in the child welfare systems (Altena M, Brillerlijper N, Judith R &Wolf M, 2010). Below, each of these factors is explained into details.
This is one of the primary causes of youth homelessness because a large percentage of the homeless youths are from the many mothers who are also homeless due to domestic violence. Also, some children are homeless because of experiencing different forms of violence in their homes whereby they may be sexually or physically abused by other family members. Many of the domestic violence cases involve the intimate partner violence which is the major cause of the instability in many homes (MCKINNEY-VENTO).
Many research reports from the homeless youth's programs in the United States of America shows that emotional abuse, physical and fights in hoes makes many youths to be homeless. The mothers who have in the past experienced domestic violence are perceived as the main perpetrators of the youth homelessness and in some regions of the United States, about a third of the homeless women are due to domestic violence and abuse (MCKINNEY-VENTO, 2001). For example, in the year 2006, more than 22000 domestic violence victims whereby about 12000 were youths/children were provided temporal shelter by various institutions that dealt with domestic violence (National Homeless Data).
Health issues and drugs
There are various behavioral health problems enhancing the runaway of the youths from their homes and they end up becoming homeless. Some children/youths are exposed to severe trauma and violence that makes them acquire behavioral health problems and they have high chances of being depressed and prone to various mental problems which lead to homelessness. Many runaway youths experience various forms of mental problems and they always exhibit much behavioral problems (Wenzel S et al., 2010).
In recent years, there have been reports economic problems such as unemployment which leads to the rise of homelessness in the United States of America. Due to this economic/financial crisis, the number of people who are homeless is in the increase. Since the year 2007, the income for many workers has decreased and hence many people are not able to afford the suitable accommodation/shelter. Also, the job stability and security have deteriorated and the large population of the unemployed people and their families cannot be able to escape homelessness. For instance, the number of unemployment has increased since December 2007 by more than 14.5 million whereby the unemployment rate is much higher among the non-professional people/workers and their families are highly vulnerable to homelessness layoffs. Among the homelessness youths, a greater percentage of the youths originate from the families with low income levels and unemployed members (National Coalition for the Homelessness, 2009).
Lack of affordable shelter/housing facilities
Recently, the number of the affordable housing facilities in the United States of America has been on a decline. Many households especially the ones with children of the age below 18 years have reported various housing problems such as overcrowding, inadequate housing, rent or cost problems and others whereby people are forced to use a greater percentage of their total income to meet the housing costs. Since the year 1997, the unmet requirements for the cheap rental houses have increased to date leading to the increase of the youth homelessness. For example, the deficit of the housing unit for poor families in America is about 3.3 million units and the various surveys that have been conducted in different cities shows that the demand for emergence housing and shelter by the homeless families increased in the year 2001. (MCKINNEY-VENTO, 2001)
Lack of moral and social support
The homeless families which have young children and youths do not have adequate and appropriate social support. These families have been found to have few positive social networks and interactions and less support. Sometimes, the homeless families do not perceive some of the existing social networks as the effective resources of the positive social support. Many homeless youths without social support report many incidences of social problems and they regard their homeless counterparts as their sources of support as compared to their parents and other family members. This shows the failed social networks in families which leads to youth homelessness.
The youths become homeless due to some disruptions of their families caused by divorce. These youths may experience short or long term homelessness. If the families break up, the youths are forced to search for new places to live and this becomes very difficult for them. They may lack suitable places to go or stay as they may lack the required funds. In respect to this, some of the youths may end up staying/sleeping in the streets temporarily and this may finally lead to long term youth homelessness (Moe M & Deward L.2010).
Participation of youths in the child welfare system
The youths that are in the foster care are prone to homelessness. Most of the youths in the care provide reports of running away from their homes. The researches have shown than a greater percentage of the foster youths have experienced homelessness (Aratani Y, 2009).
Lack of immergence services
Lack of immergence and rescue services in the country to help the youths contributes to the rise of youth homelessness in the United States in America. For instance, the various institutions and the government has failed to assist the homeless youths to get permanent homes or to return to their original homes. This makes the number of the homeless youth population to increase.
The consequences of youth homelessness
Due to homelessness of the youths in America, they face a lot of devastating problems and several barriers in their lives. These barriers hinders interferes with the youth's ability to be assimilated into the society, inhibit their independence and success, depresses their motivation and prevents them from effectively contributing to the society's development aspects. Also, this youth homelessness brings despair to them which come in terms of drug use, mental health problems, criminal activities, dangerous sexual acts, victimization and lack of access to the required education s and employment opportunities when they grow. Some of these problems become a big burden to the society since the cost of alleviating the homelessness problem is very high (Altena M, Brillerlijper N, Judith R &Wolf M, 2010). The details of the youth homelessness consequences are discussed into details below.
Dangerous sexual acts and their outcomes
Some of the homeless youth are forced to involve themselves in prostitution in order to obtain their daily bread and survival. For instance, they participate in unsafe sex in the exchange of basic necessities such as food, shelter and money. This is so because the greater percentage of the youths is sexually active at the average age of thirteen and fourteen years. Of all the homeless youths who engage in prostitution, the majority report of trading sex to get money and all of them report of participating in prostitution when they are homeless (Karabanow J, Hughes J, Ticknor J, Petterson D & Kidd S, 2010). The prostitution practices among the homeless youths leads to many unwanted pregnancies which further worsens the youths' living standards. The researches shows that many homeless/street youths have had much sex and pregnancy experiences as opposed to the ones who live in the permanent homes. These pregnancies are due to the fact that the youths have no any other way of earning a living or money other than the unsafe sex practices.
The homeless girls do no posses the required education and knowledge concerning the birth, birth control and taking care of infants. When they give birth, these homeless teen mothers face a lot of challenges in the upbringing of the babies (Moe M & Deward L, 2010). Also, the prostitution practices leads to the quick spread of dangerous diseases such as HIV among the homeless youths. This is so because these youths do not access the HIV prevention and control programs which in most cases target the youths in schools. The HIV preference for the homeless youths in the United States of America is much higher than for other youths.
The youths who are homeless experience very serious food insecurity they since they are unable to obtain enough food. Also, the youths who stay in the homeless families are given foodstuffs of very low quality whose nutritional contents are below the required levels. Some homeless youths may spend a whole day without food and the homeless parents are not able to afford food for themselves and their children. Due to this food insecurity, the homeless youths are subjected to dangerous deficiency diseases such as kwashiorkor, mental disorders such as depression, karamus, rickets and others due to lack of important nutrients such as iron, magnesium, proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates. Some of these diseases may sometimes lead to the death of the homeless youths (Aratani Y, 2009).
Criminal activities and victimization
The homeless youths gets themselves in helpless situations and this makes them to participate in criminal activities in an effort of enhancing their daily survival. For example, some youths may break into other people's houses looking for shelter and others may involve themselves in prostitution and selling of illegal drugs. The use of many types of drugs is viewed to the degree that the youths identify with the culture of homeless people. Therefore, they use and abuse the illegal substances as long as they are within the homelessness lifestyle. (Thompson Sanna, Jun J, Bender K, Ferguson M & David E, 2010). There are high chances of the homeless youths becoming the victims of crimes in society and the trauma rates are very high for these youths as opposed to other youths in the society. Sometimes, many of the homeless youths find themselves involved in robbery incidents and sexual assault.
Behavioral and emotional development
The homeless children are always faced with traumatic and very stressful events which they are not able to withstand since they are very young (McKenzie S & Coates J. 2010).These stressful situations finally lead to very serious emotional problems. The homeless children always have worries on where to sleep during the nights. Some of them are stressed because they have lost their friends and they fear being perceived differently by other youths in the society. They also have worries about their families, their parents and their siblings and they are also worried about their physical safety against different forms of violence and gunshots. As a result of regular worries and stresses, the homeless youths are prone to many mental disorders than their counterparts who have no stresses. These mental problems in turn interfere with their activities such as learning and communicating. Stress may also lead to the youths' low self esteem and inefficient personality development. The homeless youths exhibit some indifference at school and most of the youths suffer as they cannot be able to access professional assistance (Cakmak S et al., 2010).
Effects on education and employment
Educational excellence of the youths is associated with the residential stability of the youths' families. Therefore, homelessness of the youths has contributed to very poor academic performances. They achieve relatively low grades in school. This is because homelessness challenges prevent them from attending school on daily basis and even completing school or college. Some of the challenges they face include lack of transportation, lack of appropriate guardianship, school attendance policies and residence needs. Homelessness leads to the interruption of the youths' education and it therefore affects their future ability to live comfortably and independently. Lack of quality education makes the homeless youths to experience severe financial and emotional challenges as they are not able to secure any employment in the United States of America. The presence of uneducated and unemployed homeless youths affects the development processes of the societies.
The LGBT homeless youth are sometimes victimized on the streets unlike to their heterosexual counterparts. The majority of these youth use more tobacco, marijuana and alcohol as compared to their counterparts in normal homes (Aratani Y, 2009).
The resources and programs available to assist homeless youths
As a result of complex issues of the homeless youths there are programs that contribute towards development and improvement of social policies, interventions and policies to help the homeless youths. These interventions improve the living standards of the homeless youths through the minimization of their challenges. This is achieved through social and economic empowerments of the youths to enable them achieve interpersonal relationships, physical health and access necessary services (Altena M, Brillerlijper N, Judith R &Wolf M, 2010). The following are some programs that are designed to improve the living standards of these youths.
The Foster Care Independence Act
This was established in the year 1999 and it provides funds to the state. It also provides flexibility in the implementation of programs that are meant to help the youth who leaves the foster care. The act doubles the funding for the living standards programs to about 140 dollars per annum, allows the states to use about thirty percent of their program funds for room and board for the youths who have left the foster programs, requires the states to use their funds to assist the older youths who are below 21 years of age and have left the foster care and establishes the Chafee Foster Care Independence program which allows the states to use their funds to provide housing, financial, counseling, employment and educational support to the youths who have left foster care and who are between 18 and 21 years (Jia A, 2002).
The homeless youths should be assisted to have privacy, stability; independence and secure permanent residential houses (Graham R & Jones M. 2010). There are various housing programs in the United States of America which favors the families that earn very low incomes. An example is the section 8 and the public housing programs. The section 8 program gives certificate programs that enable many families in the United States of America to live in the private houses and the public housing program concerns the houses that are owned by the public housing authorities that provides housing to people putting into consideration their financial capabilities and disability status. Also there is low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program that provides funds to various house developers to enable them meet the costs of the low income house building through the federal credit tax (Aratani Y, 2009).
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
This program was established in 1997. It provides various work opportunities and assistance to the needy families through the provision of funds to the states to come up with and implement their programs. TANF gives money to states that is used to reduce the cases of illegal pregnancies, promote job preparations and provide assist the needy families so that the youths may get the necessary care in their families (Jia A, 2002).
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
This was established in 1987 and it given an authority in 2001 to address the educational requirements of the homeless youth. Under this program various state agencies such as the state educational agency which ensures that all youths who are homeless gets access to equal education opportunities in various public schools (Aratani Y, 2009).
The Medically enhanced Safe Haven Model and Outreach and Intake
This is a program that led to the starting of the clinically enhanced safe haven shelter to involve the homeless people so that are able to obtain important services such as substance abuse treatment, treatment of mental health, primary care and residential stability. Also, there is the outreach for safe haven that is conducted by the Homeless Outreach Team. The roles of HOT are to identify the people who are chronically homeless after which they are provided with appropriate services. The people who are recognized by HOT are those who are homeless, living in streets, abusing drugs and having mental problems such as depression (Lincoln K, Plachta S & Espejo D. 2009).
The foundation of the factors that leads to youth homelessness in America is based on the deficiency of the necessary basic requirements. The various causes of youth homelessness include the absence of social support to the youths, presence of economic insecurity, lack of affordable shelter/housing facilities, divorce, drug or alcohol abuse, lack of emergency help, existence of various forms of violence in the homes, some health conditions and behaviors and the participation of youths in the welfare systems. Also there are consequences of youth homelessness. They include sexual acts and their outcomes, food problems/insecurity, criminal activities and victimization, behavioral and emotional development and Effects on education and employment. To assist the homeless youths, there are various programs that have been established. They include Runaway and Homeless Youth Protection Act, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Housing Subsidy and The Foster Care Independence Act.