Homeless children are perhaps the most vulnerable demographic in the United States. Not only do these children not have a home, but they often do not have the skills, life experience, or emotional maturity to handle the stresses of homelessness. This can make it difficult for many homeless children to access the help they so desperately need.
Fortunately, there are ways to get help for homeless children. It’s all about knowing where to look and who to contact. Let’s look at some of the most important resources to know about when finding help for a homeless child in need.
The statistics on homeless children in America
According to the National Center On Family Homelessness, a staggering 2.5 million children become homeless in the United States every year. The causes of youth homelessness vary, but the phenomenon is often attributed to the following circumstances:
- Abandonment by parents or other caretakers
- Financial instability in a family
- Fleeing abuse or trauma
- Rejection of LGBTQ+ children by parents or other caretakers
Regardless of the exact causes of homelessness among America’s children, the effects of youth homelessness are often heartbreaking. Children are extremely vulnerable on the streets, making it easy for criminals to take advantage of their situation. This is why it is so important to seek help for homeless children as quickly as possible.
Federal programs for homeless children
While the federal government provides general help for homeless adults and families, it also has several programs and initiatives that focus on helping homeless children. Here are a few of the largest and most noteworthy programs you should know:
- Basic Center Program (BCP) – The BCP is a federal program that helps organize and facilitate community efforts to provide basic and immediate needs to runaways and other homeless children. Its primary offerings include up to 3 weeks of shelter, clothing, food, and medical care.
- Transitional Living Program (TLP) – The TLP helps provide long-term housing to homeless youth between the ages of 16 and 22. This makes the TLP somewhat unique, as most youth-oriented housing programs implement a strict cutoff at the age of 18. Consequently, the TLP is a great program for older youths in need of assistance.
- Street Outreach Program (SOP) – As the name implies, the Street Outreach Program helps reach out to homeless youth to get them the resources they need. The primary goal of SOP is to facilitate healthy relationships between homeless children and caring adults, while also preventing instances of exploitation or sex trafficking.
- Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Programs – The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides various programs and grants for families who are experiencing temporary or long-term housing issues.
Most states also have their own regional programs and state-run organizations for runaways, homeless children, or families in need of housing. The HUD even provides a useful search tool to find a program or homeless shelter nearest to you.
Private organizations to help homeless youth
In addition to federal and state programs for homeless children, you can also look to the following private organizations for help:
- Covenant House – The Covenant House is a private organization that offers temporary housing to young people facing homelessness. In addition to working with various state and federal housing programs, Covenant House offers outreach programs to help children living in unstable or unsafe environments.
- StandUp for Kids – StandUp for Kids has one mission: to end the cycle of youth homelessness. By providing mentoring, outreach, and housing, StandUp is able to educate young people in need of help and reduce the high rates of homelessness among children throughout the United States.
- Family Promise – Family Promise has helped save thousands of children from a dangerous life on the streets. Thanks to a broad network of volunteers and affiliate programs, Family Promise is able to provide stability to homeless youths who are often caught in a situation where they have to bounce from one shelter to another.
- The Salvation Army – Perhaps the most well-known organization on this list, The Salvation Army is dedicated to reducing the negative effects of poverty, joblessness, and homelessness for adults and children alike. Thanks to the support of its donors and an enormous network of volunteers, The Salvation Army has the means to quickly provide assistance to children living on the streets.
Advice for Children Experiencing Homelessness
If you or someone you know is currently living on the streets or experiencing housing instability, you already know that it is a vulnerable position. By seeking assistance you can prevent possible trauma, abuse, violence, or exploitation. While you should reach out for help, you must be wary of approaching strangers. If possible, seek assistance at your nearest police station, fire station, or homeless shelter.
You may feel confident that you can manage life on the streets by yourself, but this is a dangerous path. It often leads to drug addiction, crime, hunger, and abuse. So, if you have a way to reach out for help, you should do so immediately.
For example, if you have access to a phone, you can call the National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-786-2929. When you call this number, a volunteer will be available at any time of day or night to help you find shelter, clothing, food, or other resources you may need. This way, you can get off the streets and find greater stability as quickly and safely as possible.
Despite widespread economic prosperity in the United States, homelessness continues to become more and more prevalent every day. The increasing number of homeless children is especially troubling. Young people living on the streets are targets for exploitation and abuse, which can lead to a cycle of violence, trauma, crime, and despair.
For this reason, it is extremely important to reach out to one of the organizations or programs listed above if you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness. It’s also important to take precautionary measures if you believe that homelessness could be a possibility in the near future. In doing so, you can help prevent one more child from living on the streets.
Remember, if you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness, the National Runaway Safeline (1-800-786-2929) is available 24/7 to provide immediate assistance to homeless children!