LETTER: Three myths about homeless youth
YOUTH Homelessness Matters Day is coming up on Wednesday, April 13.
In order to get people in the community to support the cause it is important to make them understand the issue so that they can empathise with young homeless people and take action.
The first step to achieving this is to break down some of the most common myths about youth homelessness:
Myth 1: Homeless young people choose to live a life on the streets.
Fact 1: The most common cause of youth homelessness (and homelessness in general) is domestic and family violence, with 70% of young homeless people leaving home to escape family violence, child abuse or family breakdown.
Myth 2: All homeless young people are mentally ill or substance abusers.
Fact 2: Only a quarter of homeless people are mentally ill, and about 40% are alcohol or substance abusers, with around 15% suffering both disabilities. Those who are faced with mental illness or who suffer from substance abuse are often dealing with complex family issues or abuse and face added stresses experienced while living on the streets.
Myth 3: Young homeless people are all criminals.
Fact 3: Most young homeless people are not criminals, and - according to the National Law Centre On Homelessness and Poverty - homeless people actually commit less violent crimes than housed people. This is a troubling misconception because it creates an unreasonable fear of young homeless people, making it harder to provide them with the help they need.
Breaking down these misconceptions will bring us one step closer to fixing the issue.
This Youth Homelessness Matters Day, I encourage everyone to sympathise with young homeless people and get involved in your community, host an event, run a campaign or make a donation to help young homeless people out of poverty and back into society.
Father Chris Riley,
CEO and founder,
Youth Off The Streets.