What You Need to Know About Homeless Youth
Since its creation in 2007 by Congress, National Homeless Youth Awareness Month—November—aims to raise awareness about homeless youth on the streets, both those accompanied by a parent or guardian and those unaccompanied by an adult. Though it is a difficult statistic to generate, experts believe that in any given year: [link]
- Between 1 and 1.5 million youth are homeless in America, with about 500,000 of those unaccompanied
- About 50% report they left home due to physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
- Unaccompanied homeless youth are at a higher risk of anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress, and suicide
- They are also at-risk for a number of chronic health conditions such as hepatitis, asthma, tuberculosis, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS
Alexandria’s House Is the Best Solution for Pregnant Homeless Youth
The intent of this article is not to cover facts and figures related to homeless youth, but instead highlight an organization in Spokane, WA that for decades has been doing the hard work of preventing youth homelessness on a one-to-one basis. Alexandria House, located in historic Browne’s Addition and administered by the Volunteers of America of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, houses and helps up to five teens/young women (ages 16-20) who are expecting or new mothers—these young women are homeless youth and at-risk for a long list of physical, mental, and emotional traumas as noted above. Many were kicked out of their homes, have been couch surfing, or were already homeless before coming to Alexandria House.
In October 2020, I had the opportunity to sit down with Jennica and Dave, staff with the Volunteers of America that oversee and actively help the young women at Alexandria’s House . They made it clear that the program is not merely a bed and four walls for those in need. They and their predecessors have created a comprehensive and holistic structure that aims to produce young mothers that have the skills—social, workplace, parenting, et cetera—for lifetime success. This is accomplished through a community living dynamic where the previously homeless youth must work with their peers to run the home; the necessary cooking, cleaning, other chores, and planning for events like birthdays, holidays, and of course baby showers. Along the way, staff help where and when needed but ultimately want the previously homeless youth to learn responsibility and healthy conflict resolution; they ensure issues are talked through and resolved versus left to fester.
Pragmatic education is another focus. A full-time doula covers both prenatal and postnatal care, child safety, and answers the myriad of questions that first time mothers invariably have. Staff teach classes like nutrition, sex education, what healthy relationships look like, and other immediately useful topics.
These young mothers often leave the program into a special housing program that benchmarks their rent to thirty percent of their monthly income. Many others find opportunities out of state that they choose to take advantage of. That’s the difference in their lives: they have the ability and power to make the best choices for themselves and their child. Most complete some form of education—a GED, high school diploma, even college—and plug themselves into the workforce alongside the rest of us.
From my vantage on the outside looking in, I see a program that doesn’t try to do too much, to spread itself thin by ‘helping’ the greatest number of people with short-term or bandage-type solutions that don’t lead to long-term results. Alexandria House can only help five at-risk young women at a time; they are committed to individuals with names, pasts, and—if history is any indication—better futures.
How Can I Help the Girls at Alexandria’s House?
Running a home like the Alexandria House is an ongoing commitment of time, effort, and finances. Pregnancy, domestic violence, and abuse leaves too many girls without a safe place to call home. Believe In Me believes in transitional housing programs like Alexandria’s House that provide support, resources, and a safe place to call home for disadvantaged kids. You can help us with our vision to make sure every kid develops the self-confidence they need to succeed by donating to Believe In Me. Click on the button below to show your support for disadvantaged youth, including the new and expecting moms at Alexandria’s House.
References: “Awareness and Action: Youth Homelessness in America” National Coalition for the Homeless. https://nationalhomeless.org/awareness-action-youth-homelessness-america/