The Marin Post

The Voice of the Community

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Changing the Face of Youth Homelessness

Lucas was still in high school when his mom decided to move to Brazil with her boyfriend, leaving Lucas to fend for himself at age 17. Even before his mother left, Lucas never had a stable life, as both of his parents were addicts, and his father was absent. Lucas often went to school hungry. When his mom left, Lucas began sleeping on the floor at his best friend’s house. Although he was able to eat there, Lucas was too embarrassed to ask for food to take to school for lunch.

He got a job, but his bike broke, and the unpredictable bus schedule often made him late, causing him to lose his job. As his friends and classmates celebrated their graduation last spring, Lucas learned that he did not have the credits to graduate.

Like many homeless youth, Lucas felt guilty and embarrassed about his situation. He never considered himself homeless because he didn’t want the stigma and judgement that comes with the word “homeless”; and, like all youth his age, he just wanted to fit in.

Lucas’s story is not unique.Many youth in Marin in their teens and twenties do not have stable housing for a variety of reasons. While some end up on the streets, others sleep in their cars, couch surf or temporarily spend the night with friends. They try to keep up the illusion of stability by continuing to attend work or school as if nothing is wrong. They do not think of themselves as homeless, nor do Marin residents or the government. This restricted definition of homelessness contributes to the problem.

The recently released January 2019 Marin Point-in-Time (PIT) count provides a misleading impression about the scope of this issue. As a one-day arbitrary count, HUD PIT numbers represent only the tip of the iceberg, especially regarding homeless youth: the hardest to reach homeless population. Karen Allen, MCOE Liaison for Youth Homelessness, along with the CA Department of Education, report that the actual homeless numbers are three times any estimate.

It is time we broaden the definition of youth homelessness to address this problem thoroughly and effectively. The exact numbers of homeless youth are difficult to determine because of youth’s nomadic lifestyle and fear of stigmatization and control by adults.

Written by: Larkin Bond, a former youth served by AHO, and a graduate of UC Berkeley who is now a member of the AHO team.

Become part of the solution. Contact AHO

About AHO:

AHO provides a successful model that is changing lives and building youth leaders. AHO offers comprehensive resources and leadership opportunities that homeless youth typically do not receive. AHO’s work with youth is judgement free, designed for youth, by youth for the future of youth and thereby young people feel safe to reach out for help. AHO reaches homeless youth and offers a hand-up toward stability for the long-term with over 3,000 youth successfully served in 15 years. AHO is not government funded, and instead has galvanized the local community of businesses, professionals, faith communities, and organizations that help provide the personalized resources youth request. AHO offers a beacon of hope for youth in our community, but AHO’s work needs to be acknowledged and supported by the larger Marin community so all youth have a safe and secure home.