Homelessness is a stark reality for many youths in Minnesota. There are many reasons why a young person becomes homeless. Often the causes of homelessness for a youth are the result of circumstances beyond their control. Common causes include: aging out of foster care, loss of parent, loss of employment by parent, illness (including mental illness) in the family, abuse of some kind in the home (substance abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect), or lack of acceptance if a youth identifies as LGBTQ. Many times the young person leaves the home out of fear for their own safety and well-being.
According to the most recent study conducted in 2015 by Wilder Research, on any given night there is over 6,000 unaccompanied youth (youth on their own) in the state of Minnesota. 40% of these youth are from Greater Minnesota. These numbers are considered conservative estimates because youth who are homeless are the least visible and therefore the most difficult to identify. Youth experiencing homelessness are far less likely than adults or families to stay in shelters where they can be counted; more often than not, they couch hop (stay with friends or relatives), double up, or stay in places not meant for human habitation.
Youth experiencing homelessness face daily challenges of instability, trauma, abuse, loneliness, mental health concerns, illness, food scarcity and simple lack of sleep. As a result of these challenges then, young people struggle to stay in school or maintain a job so that they can work to move beyond their current situation.
The factors contributing to youth homelessness are complex. In working to solve the issue of youth homelessness, action needs to be taken in the areas of mental health, affordable and appropriate housing for youth, access to public transportation, permanent connections with trusted adults, and supportive services that assist young people as they work towards greater stability and well-being.