Teen homelessness is a serious problem, and the sad part is the reason why teens end up homeless. There are two main reasons; teens that live in households where they are neglected or abused choose to leave home, and parents who kick their teen out of the house.
Knowing how to help homeless teens can be confusing. Why would a teenage child rather live on the streets as opposed to returning home or going to a foster home? There is something seriously wrong. Teenagers that feel so frightened, angry, or unloved, and accept living on the streets usually are choosing the lesser of two evils. Either sleep on park benches or under bridges, eat out of the garbage, panhandle, steal, turn to drugs, and prostitution as a means of survival or go home. Throwaway teens are forced out of the home by their parents, and have no real choices.
The System Needs Changes
Changes need to be made in the system that is suppose to protect our children, and the laws need to be stricter. Parents who are known to have drug or alcohol problems, and be abusive to their children need to be forced to get help or be punished by the law. If we are going to begin helping homeless teens we need to stop blaming them.
Many homeless teens come from homes where the Department of Family and Children Service have visited. Police may have been called out to these homes, and the parent(s), teen, or both have usually have some sort of record. And usually these children and parents have spent time in a court room. So, why do all these red flags get stuffed under the rug? Because the system is not working.
Sadly, many homeless teens will not ask for help, and do not want to take advantage of any assistance because when these teens ask for help the law requires service providers to notify the parents, or authorities. Is this how to help homeless teens? For some of these teens they fear being sent home or forced into to state care more than they do living, and possibly dying on the streets.
Parents Who “Throwaway” Troubled Teens
Parents need to be investigated when they throw their teen out of the house. In many cases, these parents will justify their cruel decision by claiming that their teen was too much trouble. Teens are not garbage that can be tossed out. Teens that are using drugs and alcohol, become sexually active, commit crimes, and do not want to go to school are usually suffering and depressed. Parents have a responsibility to raise their children, they should see the signs, and try to help or seek professional help for their teen before things reach the “out of control” stage.
Troubled teens that are homeless is a serious problem, but things will not change until society changes. Case workers, teachers, law enforcement officers, Judges, and most importantly parents must start making these teens, and their problems a priority. Labeling a teen as “bad” or “out of control” is not the answer. Nine out of ten times there are underlying reasons that shape a teens behavior, and the root cause needs to be unearthed.
You want to know how to help homeless teens? Start by placing the blame where it belongs, with the parents, the school system, the judicial system, and Children and Family services. Children are a product of their environment. Homeless teens is everyone's problem.
What can you do to help? Get involved in community youth programs. Volunteer if you have some free time. If you pass a homeless teen on the street stop, and try to talk to them because some of these kids just need to feel that someone cares. They are suffering, and you may be the person that fills a void in their life. Do not just toss them a dollar and walk away.