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Teen Homelessness in America Essay


Evidence has shown that teen homeless across America is ongoing and impacts youth of all cultures and backgrounds. There are millions of youth that are homeless in the United States. The typical ages of homeless youth are eighteen and younger. In America the average youth becomes homeless by age fourteen (www.safehorizon.com). Youth can become homeless for a number of reasons e.g. finances, verbal and physical abuse, pregnancy, sexual orientation, mental illness and neglect. Many youth and young adults have also become homeless due to aging out of foster care services. Youth exiting the foster care and juvenile penal system aren’t effectively linked to services to prevent homelessness. “Surveys of service providers and homeless populations suggest that young people exiting foster care have difficulty securing stable housing,” (Fowler, Toro, & Miles, pg. 1453, 2009).

Homelessness is often frowned upon and observed as an individual issue; however, this is the society’s issue, affecting everyone. Research has shown that joining together with a common goal in mind can produce promising results, so why not teen homelessness? “Through strategic collaborations between the nonprofit, private, and public sectors, it is possible to develop more innovative approaches to housing homeless youth,” (Van Leeuwen, pg. 466, 2003). Envisioned for this work, the writer will provide evidence from empirical articles on teen homeless and its effects as they directly impact our country.


Teen homelessness happens to affect all people of different nations, ages, states, and cultures. Teen homelessness and homelessness can be defined in
several different ways. The homeless and runaway act of 1974 (RHYA) described homeless youth as one who is no older than 21 and is unaccompanied by a family member or caregiver. According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) a youth is considered homeless by way of four classifications. “Persons and relatives who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; persons and relatives who will imminently lose their primary nighttime residence; unaccompanied youth and families with youth who are defined as homeless under other federal statutes; and youth and families who are fleeing, or are attempting to flee, domestic violence” (www.hud.gov, 9/27/13). Research has shown that homelessness is often viewed as an individual problem rather than a community issue. Homeless youth have been referred to by many names throwaway youth, runaway youth, street youth and systems youth.

A throwaway youth is an individual that has been asked or forced to leave the home by parents of caregivers with no alternative care in place. A runaway youth is an individual who has left the home against parent or caregivers permission and has stay away for more than one night. Street youth are those that have spent significant time out on the streets without parents. Lastly there are system youth those that have aged out of the foster care or departing the justice system (www.findyouthinfo.gov, 9/27/13). Contrary to belief there are over 1.7 million homeless teens in the United States of America (www.safehorizion.org, 9/28/13). Research has shown that a great number of homeless youth are eighteen and younger. One should observe that while on the street many youth endure all types of traumatic abuse resulting in the need to escape its harsh reality. Majority of destitute teens turn to street drugs and alcohol in hopes of dulling the pain experienced (self-medicating). Many homeless adults were once homeless youth who failed to receive proper care.

Teens are more likely to become homeless adults in the coming years. Research has shown that more than half the population of homeless teens have been forced out or told to leave home by their parents. Each year over five thousand homeless youth die out on the streets due to untreated illnesses, assault and suicide (www.safehorizion.org, 9/28/13). Causes and Effects There are many origins or causes of teen homelessness. The chief issues among homeless youth are financial adversity and household clash. Abuse also plays a major role in teen homelessness substance abuse, verbal abuse and physical abuse. Some youth become homeless due to pregnancy, sexual orientation, mental illness and neglect. Others are aging out of foster care and juvenile corrections facilities. The effects of teen homelessness are many ranging from untreated physical and mental health to drug and alcohol dependence.

Many youth also fall victim to the prison system and even death due to criminal behavior as a means of survival. During my research a study was conducted on youth entering and exiting the foster care system. Research has shown that the very systems put into place to ensure child safety and reduce outcomes such as poverty have place more youth at risk “Homelessness and its associated psychosocial effects continue to plague American urban centers. Especially troubling are suggestions that foster care functions as a pipeline to the streets for older adolescents leaving the system. Surveys of service providers and homeless populations suggest that young people exiting foster care have difficulty securing stable housing” (Fowler, Toro, & Miles, 2009, p.1). One should observe that there has been little to no research completed to reduce or eliminate homelessness amongst youth exiting the foster care system therefore the rates of displaced youngsters continue to raise. “However, little research has systematically examined the onset, frequency, and duration of homelessness in this group” (Fowler, Toro, & Miles, 2009, p1).

“The absence of adequate assessments of housing problems and related negative outcomes limits the possibilities for policy and programmatic interventions in an already-vulnerable population” (Fowler, Toro, & Miles, 2009, p1). However there have been acts passed that would allow the funding of housing stability for adolescents exiting the foster care system (Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (FCIA; HR 3443). “Although additional funds can be used to provide adolescents with a wide range of services intended to prevent homelessness, most states opt not to do so, and therefore they fail to draw federal dollars to support such initiatives” (Fowler, Toro, & Miles, 2009 p.1).

Research has provided evidence that community dynamics play an intricate role in development and strength of a mental health disorder in an individual’s life. The parting or separation of parents, divorce or separation, economic matters, and seclusion are leading influences homelessness youth with a mental illness. Nonetheless, its undercurrents can be reduce or eliminated with impact of a structured and compassionate community atmosphere. As of late many agencies and programs are permitting persons to obtain housing before obtaining sobriety. Study has revealed that this approach has offered one the motivation to attain somberness; successfully handling mental health disorders while eventually eliminating homelessness.

Another major cause and effect of among homeless teenager’s untreated physical and mental health illnesses. Investigation has reveal that the communication, rapport, and interaction of persons impacted by a mental illness is high. Exploration has exposed that intellectual conditions don’t differentiate who it effects. Males, females, kids and teenagers alike can all be impacted leading to a break down in the family. Possessing a mental health disorder can considerably disturb somebody’s reasoning and processing; impacting relationships leading to furthered homelessness due to lack of trust of others.

Research has shown that there are many untreated health issues among homeless teens as a result of the mixture drug usage e.g. intravenously transmitted diseases, hepatitis etc. “Furthermore, injection drug use carries considerable risk of blood born infections among youth (Fennema et al. 1997, p.3)”. During a study homeless teens were asked “how many times in the past 30 days have you had experienced physical medical problems needing a doctor’s attention or visit to a clinic, whether or not you actually saw a doctor? (Rhule-Louie, Bowen, Baer & Peterson 2007, p.6). Many teens were unable to recall such visits which confirms that many homeless teens are partaking in risky behaviors “the number of medical problems youth had experienced in the past month and the length of time they had been homeless were subjected to a logarithmic transformation”.

The misuse of medications, spirits and other elements repeatedly intensifies cerebral damage or sickness greatly increasing dependence eventually impacting stable housing “Tait and Hulse (2005) recently reported that adolescents who used both alcohol and other drugs were more likely to experience events requiring medical attention compared to adolescents who only used alcohol” (Rhule-Louie, Bowen, Baer & Peterson 2007, p.3). During research the writer learned that illegal drugs were abused greatly throughout the world.

Individuals disclosed that they misuse marijuana, opiates, cocaine, crack cocaine, hallucinogens, pills and cleaners or thinners. One should observe that it’s typically more difficult to house a teen who uses injection as a method of drug use “Injection drug use was significantly negatively associated with the number of places youth had stayed, yet positively associated with the probability of youth staying on the street” (Rhule-Louie, Bowen, Baer & Peterson 2007, p7).

Criminal Activity/Death

Research has shown that many homeless youth come from violent family backgrounds this is the very reason many become homeless. Verbal and physical aggressiveness can be distributed from one family member to the next, violent and abusive behaviors can be taught as a result of family violence” Many of these youth come from abusive and dysfunctional families, have significant emotional problems, engage in deviant subsistence strategies, and have used alcohol and drugs; thus, it may be difficult to find any significant differences because these youth are relatively homogeneous with respect to many of the study variables” (Dukes et al., 1997; Evans & Mason, 1996). During research it was revealed that many homeless youth may flock to a certain group of individuals typically leading to gang involvement and criminal activity “In fact, it has been proposed that youth might join gangs for self-protection if they have been victimized (Johnstone, 1983)”.

Gang involvement is a means of survival on the streets and can help one to cope with psychological disorders ultimately leading to prison or death “Furthermore, it has been suggested that youth might join gangs to enhance their self-esteem and that other gang members might provide social support to help deal with psychological problems (Dukes et al., 1997; Evans & Mason, 1996). One should observe that many teens are left without the influence of a father therefore many criminal behaviors are on display as a pelage for acceptance “Not only is fatherhood central to men’s identities but the changes associated with fatherhood are pervasive and profound (Palkovitz et al., 2001: 55, p.2)”.

Research has shown that single women can certainly rise children unaccompanied by a male counterpart (husband) however, is it beneficial? Studies have shown that the role of a father and husband are imperative to a child’s development mentally and spiritually “Yet the implications for fatherhood and the fathering role have until recently received little sustained attention in the literature on lone parenthood and family breakdown (Corcoran, 2005, p.2)”.

Preventing Teen Homelessness

One should observe that reducing and preventing teen homelessness has always been a difficult task however, when efforts are aimed in a constructive direction the number of abandon youth could decrease. Research has shown that persons that have been reared in a negligent or abusive environment as well. Family groups with such an upbringing often lack effective communication and interactions leading to violent behaviors therefore separating the family. Research has recommended that social provisions like family therapy, psychiatrist and therapists, are an essential component to the reduction of debilitating behaviors in the home. Following through with social supports will also allow the individual or family to reduce or eliminate negative behaviors in the home and community. Research has shown that pregnant teens are often put out of the home due to parents not wanting to raise another child.

This often leads young teen mothers in homelessness and poverty. Young and older women often lose or temporally lose parental rights and given time to establish stable housing and given parental rights back. The writer has learned that “Homeless poverty among women in the United States reveals itself in two distinctive variants: mothers who enter homeless shelters with their minor children (and sometimes with a partner or husband); and women who are homeless alone (Barrow and Laborde 2008, p.1)”. A study was conducted to eliminate the process in which data was gathered on homeless adolescents.

The research consisted of an attritional and longitudinal method of gathering data on homeless youth. The study was conducted over several years among the homeless teen population and found promising results. “Longitudinal research on at-risk populations can provide valuable insight into the predictors and outcomes associated with a variety of experiences such as childhood abuse, homelessness, substance abuse, and mental illness (Hobden, Forney, Wyszacki Durham, & Paul Toro, 2011, p.1)”. Researchers discovered that many youth were difficult to contact to complete study due to being housed and off the streets.

Active Parents

During research it has revealed that connecting absent parents with their children is essential to positive and effective growth among the youth and adult. Research has proven that it truly difficult to connect an absent parent back into the lives of their children. However, the process has been made rigorous with the best interest of the child or teen in mind “Factors that precipitate reconnection range from the child’s age to an application for child support and changes in the absent parent’s mental health status (Freeman, Able, Cowper-Smith & Stein, 2004)”. Exploration has also revealed that a parents reasons for wishing to reconnect with the biological child isn’t always healthy e.g. to engage the former partner “Regardless of the stated reason, in some situations we observe that the absent parent seems to be using the reconnection attempt to resurrect a relationship with a former partner” (Freeman, Able, Cowper-Smith & Stein, 2004 p.2).

Investigation has confirmed that the absence of the father in the black home is especially difficult to grasp. A study has revealed that even some mothers can take their anger, rage, bitterness and out on the young child or teen in the fathers absence “The projection of the mother’s unresolved feelings about an absent father on to one or more of her children-often the eldest son expected to fulfill the role of parental child- is an obstacle frequently encountered in therapy with single black families (Lowe JR, 2000). African American males normally don’t have involvement in the home from the father leaving them subject to false leadership “Over the past two decades black families have experienced rising levels of unemployment, poverty, divorce, separation out of wed-lock births, crime, and delinquency (Hill, 1971, p.7)”.

The participation of both parents while raising a child practically married have decrease over the last three decades. The percentage of parents having children out of wed lock has shy rocked particularly the low-class poverty stricken community show no interest in marriage” (Liu & Heiland, 2012, p.1). “The decoupling of marriage and fertility behavior is particularly common among the low-income, less-educated urban population (McLanahan and Sandefur1994, p.1)”. “The proportion of American children born to unmarried parents has increased dramatically over the past three decades, from 12% in 1970 to nearly one-third of all births today (Sigle-Rushton and McLanahan 2002, p.2). Research has shown that children who parents marry before or after the birth of a child have a health chance at effectively functioning in life.

Research has proven that African American fathers are absent in the home for several reasons e.g. incarceration, death, and simply not being who the father is “The prevailing assumption of African American fathers by practitioners is that they are absent or dysfunctional (Hall, Livingston, Henderson, Fisher & Hines, 2007)”. However, there are African American men that get that bad wrap for being irresponsible fathers. One should observe that there are many African American men who desire to care for their wives and children being excellent caregivers physically and emotionally” Despite the existence of successful African American fathers, bias in the literature and practice reinforce deficit models as African American.

To eliminate bias, social scientists and human service practitioners must devise constructs reflective of the strengths of African American fatherhood. Research suggests that we must purge the urban culture of this stereo type and begin to empower black fathers to be great husbands, father and leaders” (Hall, Livingston, Henderson, Fisher & Hines, 2007).

Safe Havens/Alternative Resources

Research has proven that reducing and eliminating homeless among youth and teens is difficult but, can be effectively tackled by way of supportive housing. During the process of study reach had shown that dysfunctional youth need detention centers and correctional type group homes settings. Urban Park is the only licensed facility located in Denver Colorado that approaches the issue from a different angle. With the assistance of the Denver Department of Human Services Urban Park has managed to house at risk youth that are aged out of the system or are approaching the maximum age. “It costs Colorado $53,655 to place a young person in youth corrections for one year and $53,527 for residential treatment. It costs Urban Peak $5,378 to move a young person off of the streets” (Van Leeuwen, 2003, p.1).

Many energies have been made to ensure that youth transitioning from state programs have the proper tools to succeed on their own. Research has shown that there are funds allowed for youth at risk of homelessness who are exiting the system “Under the Runaway, Homeless, and Missing Children Protection Act in (P.L.108-96), Congress authorized the Transitional Living Program for Older Homeless Youth. TLP provides grants to community and faith-based non-profit and public organizations for longer-term residential supports (up to 18 months) to youth ages 16–21 in order to promote their successful transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency” (Giffords, Alonso, & Bell, 2007, p.1).


Youth and families that are directly connected with community provisions e.g. family therapy, churches, community networks are often more likely to succeed at family relationships. Individuals positioned in diverse cultural backgrounds where there is no community connection normally aren’t successful at relations dysfunction producing homeless and abandoned youth and teens. Investigation has proven that most inner city families struggle with some form of untreated mental illnesses. The family units can hardly provide basic needs so things importance such as family therapy and a psychiatrist are virtually nonexistent. Such things are constant with scarceness, all types of violence, child abuse etc.

Research suggests that “unique collaborations among the nonprofit, private, and public sectors offers some insight into how to use data to inform city officials, business owners, and local foundations (Van Leeuwen, 2003, p.14)” on how to combat such realities within our communities. “It also demonstrates how preliminary support and collaboration among the nonprofit, private, and public sectors can leverage significant revenue from outside sources in establishing housing for homeless youth” (Van Leeuwen, 2003, p.14).

Programs such as Urban Park demonstrate with action to prevent, reduce and eliminate youth and teen homelessness. “In 2003, Urban Peak helped more than 400 young people transition off the streets at a cost of approximately one-tenth that of incarceration or residential treatment. Through strategic collaborations between the nonprofit, private, and public sectors, it is possible to develop more innovative approaches to housing homeless youth” (Van Leeuwen, 2003, p.14).

Giffords, E., Alonso, C., & Bell, R. (2007). A Transitional Living Program for Homeless Adolescents: A Case Study. Child & Youth Care Forum, 36(4), 141-151. doi:10.1007/s10566-007-9036-0 Lowe Jr., W. (2000). Detriangulation of Absent Fathers in Single-Parent Black Families: Techniques of Imagery. American Journal of Family Therapy, 28(1), 29-40. doi:10.1080/019261800261798 Yoder, K. A., Whitbeck, L. B., & Hoyt, D. R. (2003). Gang involvement and membership among homeless and runaway youth.Youth and Society, 34(4), 441-467. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/226982269?accountid=12085 Barrow, S. M., & Laborde, N. D. (2008). Invisible Mothers: Parenting by Homeless Women Separated from Their Children. Gender Issues, 25(3), 157-172. doi:10.1007/s12147-008-9058-4 Hobden, K., Curtis Forney, J., Wyszacki Durham, K., & Toro, P. (2011). Limiting attrition in longitudinal research on homeless adolescents: what works best?. Journal Of Community Psychology, 39(4), 443-451. doi:10.1002/jcop.20445 Fowler, P. J., Toro, P. A., & Miles, B. W. (2009). Pathways to and From Homelessness and Associated Psychosocial Outcomes Among Adolescents Leaving the Foster Care System. American Journal Of Public Health, 99(8), 1453-1458. Corcoran, M. P. (2005). Portrait of the ‘absent’ father: the impact of non-residency on developing and maintaining a fathering role. Irish Journal of Sociology, 14(2), 134-154. Hall, Ronald, Jonathan Livingston, Valerie Henderson, Glenn Fisher, and Rebekah Hines. 2007. “Post-modern Perspective on the Economics of African American Fatherhood.” Journal Of African American Studies 10, no. 4: 112-123. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed August 24, 2013). van Leeuwen, J. (2004). Reaching the Hard to Reach: Innovative Housing for Homeless Youth Through Strategic Partnerships. Child Welfare, 83(5), 453-468. Freeman, R., Abel, D., Cowper-Smith, M., & Stein, L. (2004). Reconnecting Children With Absent Parents. Family Court Review, 42(3), 439-459. Liu, S. H., & Heiland, F. (2012). Should We Get Married? The Effect of Parents’ Marriage on out-of-wedlock children. Economic Inquiry, 50(1), 17-38. doi:10.1111/j.1465-7295.2010.00248.x Rhule-Louie, D., Bowen, S., Baer, J., &
Peterson, P. (2008). Substance Use and Health and Safety among Homeless Youth. Journal Of Child & Family Studies, 17(3), 306-319. doi:10.1007/s10826-007-9142-5 Hill, R. B. (1998). Understanding Black Family Functioning: A Holistic Perspective. Journal Of Comparative Family Studies, 29(1), 15-25.

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