Phoenix April 14, 2016 A new federal study says more than 60 percent of homeless youth report being raped, assaulted or robbed while homeless. The report also finds homeless youth first encounter life on the streets at an average of 15, and have been homeless for an average of two years.
“It’s horrible and sadly, it is consistent with our local information,” said Tumbleweed Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Schuler. “Recently, 80% of the youth in our Emergency Housing Program reported being a victim of crime, including violent crime and sexual assault,” she said. “Our sex trafficking survivors are first coerced sexually at an average age of 15.”
About half of the homeless youth surveyed around the country by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln study had been asked to leave by caregivers, illuminating the connection between youth homelessness and neglect, according to the analysis.
The study was performed for the Administration on Children, Youth and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 873 homeless youth ages 14 to 21 were surveyed in eleven states, including Arizona.
It found youth with a foster care history experienced homelessness far longer than other youth: 27.5 months compared to 19.3 months for youth with no foster care background.
Almost 30% identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual and 7% as transgender.
“That is consonant with what we know,” Schuler said. “Studies we have done with the ASU School of Social Research find 35% of our youth come from the foster care system and 38% identify as LGBTQ, many of them evicted from their family due to their sexual orientation.
“Our young homeless people are in danger every day, and these are our youth,” she added. “More than 60 percent say they were born and raised in the Valley.”
Tumbleweed estimates there are between 600 and 800 homeless youth between the ages of 12 and 25 in Maricopa County at any given time.
Rafael Lopez, Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services, said data collected during the study will help federal officials work with local agencies.
“It is unacceptable for any youth to become homeless in America,” said Lopez, who will be in Phoenix next month. “With data from across our country, we can work more effectively with local agencies.”