Teenage Homelessness: Plaguing America


Dylan Wilkins

Dramatization of teenage homelessness by Darcey Wilkins.

Dylan Wilkins, Writer

You are walking down the street, on your way to meet a few friends for dinner.  Ahead on the sidewalk you see a scene that tugs your heart. Sitting off to the side is a girl around the age of 15 and what seems to be her younger brother. While you are warm and comfortable in your winter coat, they are laying on the concrete path on a surprisingly cold day in Orlando. They are dressed in dirty and ripped up clothing providing little warmth from the cold. Some people are are walking swiftly in the other direction, and you can’t decide whether to put some money in what seems to be a tethered Orlando Magic cap, or to follow what everyone else is doing. Ignoring them.

This is a frequent occurrence in the streets of major cities such as New York, Orlando, and Chicago. It doesn’t matter if you see it with your own two eyes, teenage and youth homelessness is everywhere, sometimes where you least expect it. Although students may not realize it, youth homelessness plagues America.

According to Covenant House, 57 percent of homeless youth will enter the human trafficking ring every month. In the United States alone, more than 20,000 children are forced into prostitution every year by the human trafficking ring after facing homelessness.  

Seeking refuge, homeless youth resort to using tents as shelter. However, due to the Anti-Camping Ordinance law, the life of homeless youth live may be altered extremely. The new law makes it illegal to have a form of temporary habitation on the streets or surrounding areas. For teenage homeless youth seeking shelter, the streets will become uninhabitable and they will be forced to move to other areas.

Motels across US-192 are filled with homeless families. According to the U.S. Department of Education, at least 2,000 children live in the hotels of Central Florida. That’s not including the countless number of children who are too young to attend school, those who have dropped out, and those who have left unnoticed.

I think it’s very severe, Westside K-8 School is fifth in the state for the amount of homeless students. “All over 192 there are families living day to day in motels,” School Enrollment Administrator, Mrs. Michelle Taylor, said.

Due to the fact that they may find it difficult to complete school work due to the lack of resources they have available, or they must prioritize their family needs before their education. After school, a student might have to help their younger siblings, make dinner, or attend a part-time job to support their family. Juggling an intense schedule leaves little to no time to complete school work.

“Schools should give extra help to homeless youth when it comes to education. “They may have to take more responsibilities for their families since they are homeless,” 6th grader, Samir Dudley, says.

Homeless youth are hard to identify and can be even harder to help. One of the easiest ways to help is by extending due dates for work, speaking to teachers and creating an accommodating schedule can assist homeless youth exponentially.

“I think children shouldn’t be punished because of a situation they had no control over” 7th grader, Isaiah Pruitt, said.

Homeless youth may suffer from malnutrition and stay starving for weeks at a time. Although schools are investing in free lunch and breakfast when students leave for weekends or seasonal breaks, some families don’t have enough money to provide food. Volunteering at local shelters or creating small boxes of food for students to take home so their family can be fed over the break is one solution. Some schools have already implemented this strategy to combat student hunger.

“Schools should start giving food to the children in need since they may not have food at home and can go hungry over long breaks from school,” 8th grade teacher, Mr. John Leatherwood, stated.

Combating youth homeless at the current magnification will take years of needed progress, by working with schools and outside affiliated programs the situation can be helped.