"Over 1.3 million homeless youth are living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers. Homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, substance abuse, and death. It is estimated that 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide." www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/homeless-and-runaway-youth.aspx
Over 80% of all sexually exploited youth were homeless at the time their exploiter found them.
Within 72 hours on the street, one-third of all girls will have already been found by an exploiter. Another one-third will have already engaged in transactional exploitive sex to survive.
Studies Have Shown That:
- One in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away
- Youth age 12 to 17 are more at risk of homelessness than adults
- 75 percent of runaways are female
- Estimates of the number of pregnant homeless girls are between 6 and 22 percent
- Between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning (GLBTQ)
- 46 percent of runaway and homeless youth reported being physically abused, 38 percent reported being emotionally abused , and 17 percent reported being forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member
- 75 percent of homeless or runaway youth have dropped out or will drop out of school
Common Reasons Why Youth Become Homeless or Runaways:
- Family problems: Many youth run away, and in turn become homeless, due to problems in the home, including physical and sexual abuse, mental health disorders of a family member, substance abuse and addiction of a family member, and parental neglect. In some cases, youth are asked to leave the home because the family is unable to provide for their specific mental health or disability needs. Still some youth are pushed out of their homes because their parents cannot afford to care for them.
- Transitions from foster care and other public systems: Youth who have been involved in the foster care system are more likely to become homeless at an earlier age and remain homeless for a longer period of time. Youth aging out of the foster care system often have little or no income support and limited housing options and are at higher risk to end up on the streets. Youth that live in residential or institutional facilities often become homeless upon discharge. In addition, very few homeless youth are able to seek housing in emergency shelters due to the lack of shelter beds for young people and shelter admission policies.
- Economic problems: Some youth become homeless when their families fall into difficult financial situations resulting from lack of affordable housing, difficulty obtaining or maintaining a job, or lack of medical insurance or other benefits. These youth become homeless with their families, but later can find themselves separated from them and/or living on the streets alone, often due to shelter or child welfare policies.
Consequences of Life on the Street for Homeless and Runaway Youth:
- Increased likelihood of high-risk behaviors, including engaging in unprotected sex, having multiple sex partners and participating in intravenous drug use. Youth who engage in these high-risk behaviors are more likely to remain homeless and be more resistant to change.
- Greater risk of severe anxiety and depression, suicide, poor health and nutrition, and low self-esteem.
- Increased likelihood of exchanging sex for food, clothing and shelter ( also known as "survival sex") or dealing drugs to meet basic needs. Forty percent of African American youth and 36 percent of Caucasian youth who experienced homelessness or life on the street sold drugs, primarily marijuana, for money.
- Difficulty attending school due to lack of required enrollment records (such as immunization and medical records and proof of residence) as well as lack of access to transportation to and from school. As a result, homeless youth often have a hard time getting an education and supporting themselves financially.
- Homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning (GLBTQ) youth are more likely to exchange sex for housing or shelter, are abused more often at homeless shelters (especially adult shelters), and experience more violence on the streets than homeless heterosexual youth.