Chrystal Stegen, Social Worker, Host Home Program
When youth become homeless they are forced to learn how to support themselves before they have the skills, knowledge, or available resources to do so. These youth are attempting to figure out how to be independent and successful without a stable base to work from. Quite literally, they are trying to make something out of nothing.
Homeless youth live in daily crisis. Each day they are confronted with the struggle to find a place to sleep, hopefully somewhere safe and warm, maybe even with a pillow and blanket. Not only is where they will sleep on their mind all day, they are also wondering where and when they will get their next meal.
Food and shelter are basic needs for every person and for someone who is homeless, the struggle to live beyond that is challenging. With basic needs at the top of their priority list, things such as socializing with friends, building relationships with role models or other adults, getting appropriate health care, etc. are left to the wayside because their main concern revolves around finances and meeting their basic needs. Ultimately delaying their plans for their future and potentially stunting their growth as a person.
Even if the youth is able to obtain a job, the income would not be sufficient to support shelter and food costs. It would most likely be their first job which leaves them at entry level minimum wage pay. They are also attending school for eight hours a day which doesn’t leave them enough time to provide for themselves.
This is when many homeless youth choose to drop out of school, because going to school isn’t putting a roof over their head or food in their belly. Not to mention, they are probably struggling with completing assignments because there is a lack of resources to complete them, there isn’t a place to get work done, or they are spending much of their out-of-school time at work; they doesn’t foresee much chance of themselves graduating anyway.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, without a high school diploma, a person can expect to earn an annual income of $20,241. To a youth in crisis, that looks like a lot of money and their lack of insight into the future and the financial responsibility adults take on by being independent, prevents them from realizing that amount is not enough to support them through life.
Living in a stable environment, having basic needs, and building relationships are all a part of becoming a resilient and successful adult. Many youth don’t have those opportunities when they are homeless and it’s imperative that communities come together to provide resources that offer them a hopeful future.
Learn more about what FCC is doing about homeless youth in the La Crosse area with the Host Home Program.