by Annette Klinefelter, CEO

There is an estimated 750,000 homeless individuals in the United States. The rate of homelessness is steadily increasing, particularly among youth and young adults.

There are various social determinants that contribute to youth homelessness. Regardless of the cause, the end result is usually the same youth and young adults at the mercy of the streets. 

Youth aged 12 to 17 are at a greater risk of homelessness than adults, and many homeless youth have been victims of severe abuse. This type of trauma usually causes self-medicating habits with alcohol and drugs. Once homeless, many youth lack access to the critical mental health and substance abuse treatments that they desperately need. It’s estimated that nearly 75% of missing, runaway, throwaway, or abducted children reported a substance use disorder.

At Daybreak Youth Services, 30% of the clients we treat have already experienced homelessness in their short lives. And yes, each of these clients is battling addiction and often-mental health issues as well.

There are a litany of factors contributing to youth homelessness and substance use:

  • Growing up homeless
  • Predisposed genetics to substance abuse
  • Using drugs and alcohol at a very young age
  • Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
  • Absence of coping mechanics to stress
  • Co-occurring disorders
  • Running away from home

Tragically, many of the clients we treat have a combination of these factors. Untreated, these issues will follow young people into adulthood or worse, leave them feeling hopeless with such despair that they take their own lives or fall victim to unintended overdoses.

I remember one client; I’ll call her Stacy. She was born to a homeless mother. By the time Stacy arrived to Daybreak, at barely 14 years old, she had been sex trafficked, physically assaulted, and almost murdered during a drug deal gone-bad.

It is young people like Stacy who keep me going every day… who keep every member of our Daybreak team going. We will not rest, we will not give up, we will keep going so long as there is a need for Daybreak Youth Services, despite the challenges we face.