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2019AC Offering: Homeless/Hungry Youth & Young Adults

by | Apr 30, 2019 | Annual Conference Sessions Committee, Billie's Blog

By Billie K. Fidlin, Director of Outreach & Justice

36% of all college students are homeless. Approximately 58,000 nationwide. 46% of all community college students are homeless. Arizona data states there are more than 29,500 homeless children and youth in our public schools, higher numbers when accounting for those not enrolled in school. Nevada has the highest rate of homeless youth who are unsheltered – 84% (2018 report). Homeless Nevada youth along with an estimated 3,000 foster youth combined, could make up the fourth largest school district in Nevada. https://www.nevadacurrent.com/2019/03/04/graduating-while-homeless-nevada-rethinks-outdated-policies/

Staggering statistics for our states and our country.

The McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth Act, passed in 1987, is a federal law that ensures immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth. Both Arizona and Nevada take the Act seriously and have a public regulatory policy regarding meeting the Act’s demands. This includes education for migrant children. The following websites help explain what each state is called upon to do:

Nevada:  http://www.doe.nv.gov/Homeless/Home/  Arizona  https://www.azed.gov/homeless/

What about someplace to sleep, someplace safe? What about food? What about clothing? What about when they don’t feel well? What about their future as adults when this was their childhood? How can people of faith respond to this overwhelming need by our young people?

An example of programming is the UMOM Youth Resource Center, a program housed at Tempe First UMC assisting homeless teens. The Director is Ken McKinley kmckinley@umom.org. The Center works with young people ages 12 to 24 years. Their drop-in program is open from 12:00–3:30 PM daily and serves young people in ways such as computer availability, counseling, food, showers, etc. Staff work evenings doing street outreach to youth on the streets. The Center is also part of the county-wide Safe Place program. Young people can find Safe Place yellow signs in a variety of places such as on buses and rail stations. “More than 600 teens sleep on the streets of Maricopa County each night. Others are escaping abuse or neglect or have been forced to leave their homes by their parents. Safe Place connects them with safety, shelter and support.” https://www.valleymetro.org/safe-place  

What are we as the church called to do by virtue of our faith? This Annual Conference offering will assist churches who have or want to create programming to assist homeless young people. Please give generously. As the saying goes, ‘the children are our future.’ And while that is true, we, are the present and we, are called to help all we can for a better tomorrow.

Homeless Youth and Young Adults

Note: The following statistics are from the Youth Experiences Survey (YES), 2018, conducted by the McCain Institute / ASU Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research. There were 179 participants responding in 2018. The survey notes appreciation to Our Family Services / Tucson; Native American Connections / Phoenix, one*n*ten / Phoenix and UMOM / Phoenix for their assistance in the collection of research.

  • Average age of a homeless young adult is 20.8 years old
  • Males represent 50.8%, females 41.3%, transgender 3.9%, other 3.4%
  • Heterosexual identity 45.8%;  LGBTQ+ 39.7%
  • Average age first homelessness experience: 16.3
  • Drug use is common – over half
  • Self-harm behaviors common – over half
  • Suicide attempts occur in1 of every three
  • Causes for becoming homeless: kicked out of one’s home, running away from home, emotional childhood abuse (almost half of surveyed youth/ young adults); one in three experience sexual abuse prior to age 18
  • 34.6% have experienced sex trafficking exploitation
  • 39.2% of surveyed females had experienced sex trafficking
  • 31.9% pf surveyed males had experienced sex trafficking
  • Average age of first sex trafficking experience was 17.1 years old with 29% reporting they were trafficked before the age of 18
  • Most common reasons for victimization were: a place to stay 54.8%, money 46.8% and for food 27.4%
  • 30.7% experienced labor trafficking
  • One out of every four females, one out of every three males experienced labor exploitation
  • Most common reasons for labor exploitation: 47.3% money, a place to stay 36.4% and for food 23.6%
  • Labor exploitation occurred in: drug selling, hotels, petty theft, restaurants
  • Homeless youth and young adults are among the most vulnerable in their demographic to experience: addiction, self-harming behavior, sex with strangers, eating disorders, dating violence, negative contact with law enforcement, sex trafficking, labor trafficking, working in the adult entertainment industry, suicide

Source: YES Survey: McCain Institute ASU

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About the author

Billie K. Fidlin

Billie K. Fidlin is the Director of Outreach & Justice for the Desert Southwest Conference. She is a graduate of Western Michigan University and attended Claremont School of Theology for religious studies. Ms. Fidlin currently serves as the President of the Arizona Faith Network in her second term. She is President & Founder of Whisper n Thunder Inc., and sits on various boards including the Justa Center and the Phoenix Police Department's Faith Advisory Council. Her awards include the UM Foundation for Evangelism 2004 Distinguished Evangelist; 2016 Church Women United / United Nations Human Rights Award; 2018 Servant Leader Award AZ Faith Network; 2022 Southern Poverty Law Center Certificate of Recognition; and 2022-23 Class of Who's Who in America.

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