Today in Dane County, approximately 300 homeless youth will ask that question.
It can be difficult being a teenager. Add in homelessness, and every day is a struggle. Imagine sleeping in a car, in an abandoned building, or under a bridge. Is this the type of life any youth should live?
Their plight is not well-known, and to most of us, they are unrecognizable as they walk the streets in search of food and a place to sleep. These youth deserve better - especially in a community that continues to be named as one of the 'best places to live' in the U.S.
And the number of homeless youth in Dane County is increasing. This disturbing trend reinforces the need to expand the array of services available to the youth in our county where:
· 849 high school students reported being kicked out of home by their parents within the last 12 months*
· 934 students reported running away from home in the last 12 months*
*(Source: 2012 Dane County Youth Assessment)
Studies show that:
· One in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 run away
· Youth ages 12 to 17 are more at risk for becoming homeless than adults
· 75% of runaways are female
· 20-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ
· Over 50% of homeless youth report that their parents knew of or facilitated their exit from the home
· Approximately 1 in 3 youth will be approached for sex in exchange for money, food, shelter, or drugs within 48 hours of leaving home
· 75% of homeless and runaway youth have already or will drop out of school
· 86% of homeless youth reported being physically abused, 38% reported being emotionally abused, and 17% reported being sexually abused by a family or household member
In Wisconsin, homeless youth under the age of 18 cannot go to an adult shelter and they cannot sign a lease, leaving them very few options for safe shelter. These youth are mostly unemployed, they struggle to find food to eat, and 75% of them will drop out of school.
But now you can help young people at a time in their lives when help can do them the most good. Your help will provide them with not just food, clothing, and a safe place to stay, but a path to a brighter future.
An Emerging Framework for Ending Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness from the National Alliance to End Homelessness
Briarpatch Youth Services is a member of the Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County