A recent study conducted by Chapin Hall, a youth policy center at the University, revealed that one in 10 young adults between the ages of 18–25 in the United States have experienced homelessness within a year. The rate among teenagers between 13–17 years old is one in 30. The researchers concluded that approximately 3.5 million young adults and about 700,000 adolescents in the United States were homeless at some point within the last year.
The study aims to dispel misconceptions about homelessness. “Homelessness is often young people who are trying to not look homeless,” Dr. Matthew Morton, who oversaw the project, told The Maroon. “The spectrum goes from young people who run away and are away from home for a couple nights to young people who are chronically sleeping on the streets.”
While running away for a few nights may not seem like a large problem, these short episodes often evolve into chronic homelessness, which can continue into adulthood, according to Morton.
It took approximately two years to complete the project, and the researchers spoke to homeless youth when conducting the research. Youth assistants helped with administering surveys in order to make the survey participants feel more comfortable answering questions honestly. The assistants also helped in finding locations where other homeless youth stay, as many of them do not appear homeless and cannot be spotted easily.
While discussing possible solutions to alleviate the problem, it is important to focus on early intervention and provide resources for people outside urban areas as well, Morton said. A common misconception is that homelessness is more concentrated in urban parts of the country, but the study found that it exists in rural communities at similar rates. Morton believes that Congress should invest in regular national estimates to track whether homelessness rates are changing.
“We can’t end youth homelessness in the dark,” he concluded.