Urban Health, Inc

California Youth Homelessness

Based on the latest report to Congress, nearly 30% of all homeless youth in the United States are living in California without a safe place to call home. In addition, two-thirds of our state’s counties lack even basic services for homeless youth such as shelters, much less proven long-term programs that would address homelessness for youth.

According to the California Coalition for Youth, Runaway and homeless youth flee conflict, abuse, neglect, or, increasingly, poverty in their homes. They are living on the streets, in cars or vacant buildings. Sometimes they are “couch surfing” or living in other unstable circumstances. They have become disconnected from educational systems and the workforce and do not have the skills and financial resources to live on their own. The factors impacting youth homelessness are complex and differ from those impacting other homeless populations.

Youth homelessness is unique because young people:

  • Are physically, emotionally, psychologically, and socially still developing — they are adults-in-progress with unique strengths and assets.
  • Enter into homelessness with little or no work experience which increases their risk of engaging in criminal activity for survival.
  • Are often forced into leaving their education prior to completion (i.e., junior high and high school) as a result of their homelessness.
  • Experience high levels of criminal victimization, including sexual exploitation, criminal activity for survival and labor trafficking.
  • Often enter into homelessness without life skills, such as cooking, money management, housekeeping, and job searching.

To move forward and scale up a youth-appropriate service delivery system, Urban Health has strategically invested resources so young people have access to the support they need to grow and develop as adolescents and transition to adulthood. Working with youth who have experienced serious personal trauma necessitates a program rooted in trauma-informed clinical treatment services and resilience-oriented forms of intervention. Many of the youth come from homes where they were in the constant presence of substance abuse and violence: violence among youth and gangs, sexual violence, and domestic violence. Many youths have been physically abused or have witnessed crime in the street, often perpetrated by someone close to them. This extreme abuse or exposure to drugs and violence has often stifled and paralyzed the youth, altering their worldview. This fear changes the way they function with others and in the community, affects the way they learn, and undermines their willingness to take initiative. As a result, many of these youth experience a myriad of mental disorders and illness requiring daily intensive-treatment services. The magnitude of the violence and abuse experienced at such a young age necessitated a different and unique trauma-informed approach.