The word “homeless” often conjures up images of tents pitched beneath highway underpasses or a unkempt individual with a tattered and soiled blanket sleeping in an urban doorway. But in reality, homelessness is much more invisible than that. In reality, homelessness takes many forms and arises from a variety of circumstances.
For teens and young adults, the most invisible form of homelessness is known as “couch surfing” – when they stay with different friends or relatives for limited periods of time with none of these arrangements offering a sense of permanent stability. While this may be better than sleeping on the streets, and they might not even self-identify as “homeless,” the instability of their circumstances has a negative impact on healthy development. Their transition into adulthood is stressed without a solid sense of belonging that comes with a stable and healthy home environment.
According to “Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America,” 1 in 30 minors ages 13-17 and 1 in 10 young adults ages 18-25 experienced some form of homelessness in a recent 12-month period (pre-pandemic). A 2017-18 PA Department of Education report found that 2,279 Berks youth were deemed homeless. Not surprisingly, homelessness among youth/young adults has the same impact of many other public health issues with Black, Hispanic, LGBT, and Youth Parents being disproportionately impacted.
If home ownership is the American Dream, homelessness is the American Shame. And it is not a shame of those who are experiencing homelessness, rather it is a shame shared by all of us who allow it to be so. To learn how you can help to end youth/young adult homelessness in our community contact: BCIU www.berksiu.org/students-families/k-12-education-student-services/ecyeh/ Mary’s Shelter marysshelter.org/youth_services/contact.asp or Family Promise www.familypromiseofberks.org/
Berks Teens Matter
by Nadine J. Smet-Weiss, Community Liaison; translated by Johnathan Rodriguez-Báez, HRC and Youth Ambassador Coordinator