Hope for Homeless Youth in Pierce County
The latest Mockingbird Youth Network Digital Story is from Tacoma Chapter member Josette Tennard. In this essay, Josette discusses the unique needs of homeless youth and what communities in Pierce County are doing to help youth who need it most.
Youth and young adult homelessness is a big issue today throughout Pierce County. Homeless youth as well as young adults are often forgotten when people think about the homeless. For many years those under 18 had no options in Pierce County. Starting at age 18 they are eligible for shelters that serve adults. The needs of an 18 year old are very different than then other adult shelter residents and have not been a good fit. In 2012 the Pierce County Landscape Assessment of Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adult Homelessness found that the majority of unaccompanied youth and young adults come from highly dysfunctional and often single parent households affected by generational cycles of poverty and parental substance abuse. In the report many youth and young adults said they left home because of emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. Young people trying to survive on the streets often find themselves at greater risk to engage in activities for survival such as sexual exploitation, survival sex (trading sex for basic needs including housing and food), substance abuse, and criminal activity.
Young people that are LGBTQ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,) are affected by homelessness at higher rates due to some parents who are unable to cope with their child's sexual orientation and force them to leave the home.
It can be very difficult to count the exact number of homeless young people in Pierce County. One piece of data Pierce County was able to identify was that in the 2010-2011 school year, there were 484 McKinney Vento identified unaccompanied youth in Pierce County. In 2012 the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimated that over 3,000 unaccompanied youth and young adults experience prolonged homelessness at any given time in Pierce County, with approximately 1,000 being highly vulnerable youth under the age of 18. According to Pierce County school district, 400 youth struggle to stay in school despite what is going on with their life outside of school. One hundred of them are in school but have not yet been identified as homeless, and 500 of them dropout of high school all together. Pierce county school districts also reported that they lose about 4.8 million dollars a year in revenue due to this issue at hand.
It has been estimated in Washington state that it costs just about $54,000 to just maintain one youth in the criminal justice system, whereas to move a youth off the streets costs just about 6,000-$10,000. In Pierce County there is now hope for homeless youth.
There are finally services for those young people age 13-24 that are experiencing homelessness now. Housing 4 Success (H4S) is the collaborative program through REACH, Associated Ministries, Shared Housing Services and Vadis that will provide housing and resources for success to the homeless unaccompanied youth and young adults 13-24 years of age in Pierce County. Fifty units of housing will be funded though Housing 4 Success. Options will include independent units, a shared home or host homes. Intensive case management services will also be offered. These services can be accessed by calling Access Point 4 Housing at 253-682-3401.
You can also read more about the Host Home program here.