Five years ago, a young high school student that Kirsten was working with on a theater project revealed to her that he was homeless and completely on his own. It was one of those moments in life when everything just stopped — how could this be? This kid was bright, talented, funny, and ambitious. He was going to school, attending rehearsals, and seemed so normal. But each night he didn’t know where he was going to go.
He was working hard to make something happen for himself while being alone in an impossible situation, and he was going to great lengths to hide his circumstances. For us, he put a completely unexpected face on homeless youth. And when we discovered that — at that time in 2009 — there were almost fifteen thousand kids registered as homeless in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system, we knew we had to make this film. This was a crisis and nobody seemed to be talking about it.
Last month, the Urban Institute released a report that examines the experiences of young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth who have engaged in “survival sex” in New York City. Survival sex is a term frequently used to describe the exchange of sexual acts for money or goods that people require to live (e.g. food and shelter)
Of all the findings in this compelling report, “Surviving the Streets of New York,” one in particular should give homeless service providers pause: “Many [youth] … credited the instability and rules associated with emergency housing with driving them back to the street [and sexual exploitation].”
When do youth become adults? If you ask the foster care system in most places, it’s at the age of 18, when youth “age out,” or are required to exit the system. More than 20,000 youth age out of foster care each year. This means that they have to learn to meet their own needs, as they no longer will have their needs met by the state. They must identify and maintain housing, find a job, and manage their own finances. Put simply: each year, more than 20,000 youth must rapidly become adults.
For many of these youth, aging out of foster care leaves them in a precarious situation in which they are vulnerable to homelessness. If we know that youth exiting foster care are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, what can we do to support this transition for the youth who are most likely to become homeless? And, how do we know which of these youth are most likely to become homeless?
These are the keynote remarks delivered by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro on the second day of our 2015 National Conference on Ending Gamily and Youth Homelessness, Feb. 20, 2015. You can also find them on the HUD website.
Alliance staff people are back in the cold weather in Washington, DC, after an enlighteing experience at the 2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessnessin San Diego last week. The final count was 950 people attending, an all-time high for our family and youth conference. Traffic on Twitter was robust, giving people all over the country who couldn’t attend a taste of what was going on.
And once again, the impression we were left with was the overwhelming enthusiasm and determination that people in this field have, despite obstacles and challenges, to celebrate successes, to push themselves to do better, and never give up on the youth and families who are homeless. In the closing plenary Friday afternoon, Alliance President and CEO Nan Roman shared her thoughts on some things that had impressed her over the course of the conference. Here is a look at some of the highlights.