Accessing Services Still a challenge for Homeless Youth

Results from the third state-wide survey of unaccompanied homeless youth were released and showed that little has changed when it comes to the demographics of people affected by homelessness or the reasons why they are homeless in Massachusetts compared to past years.

The results are based on a collection of surveys conducted over a two-week period in May 2016, which found 502 people identified as unaccompanied youth who are homeless out of 2,169 homeless people surveyed.

Youth who are experiencing homelessness are defined as being 24 years or younger, without physical custody or care of a legal guardian and without a fixed, regular or adequate nighttime residence as defined by the Massachusetts Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth.

Last year’s report showed that 516 homeless people were unaccompanied youth who were homeless out of 2,193 homeless people surveyed.

The data in this year’s report showed that half of the people surveyed did not have or were unsure if they had a safe place to stay on a regular basis for the next 14 days when asked, and like last year, more than half of those surveyed were female.

What improved was the number of homeless youth under 18, which fell from 10 percent in 2015 to 1 percent in 2016. The numbers in all the other demographic categories continued to climb, with the exception of Asian homeless youth, which fell from seven percent to three percent.

Over the past three years, homeless youth surveyed said they had stayed in a shelter the night before they were interviewed. Staying with a family member, partner or friend remained the second most popular answer this year as well.

The most common answers as to why homeless youth are no longer living with a parent or guardian were because they were fighting with them, were asked to leave or wanted to leave in that order.

Housing, nutritional assistance and cash assistance continued to be the most popular services sought by this group, and being placed on waitlists and transportation continued to be the barriers for most.

The Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth tasked with producing this report concluded that family conflict, instability and resource constraints continue to be the biggest issues for this group, who are constantly seeking help.

The Commission said that this and future survey results will be taken into account and will guide policy and programs designed to reduce homelessness among this population.

The report can be read in its entirety here: http://www.mahomeless.org/images/UHYCfinal_youth_count_2016_report_7-12-17.pdf

 

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University's School of Journalism.

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