To the editor:
Homelessness is an issue affecting the lives of tens of thousands of people across the Commonwealth.
But one narrative of homelessness that people may be less familiar with is the plight of unaccompanied youth.
Unaccompanied youth are young people who are living on the street, couch surfing, or living in shelter without their parents or legal guardians. These are young people 24 and younger, many under the age of 18, who are homeless and on their own. It is estimated that there are more than 6,000 unaccompanied youth in Massachusetts’ high schools alone.
Many of these young adults have fled biological and foster care homes due to neglect and abuse. Once on their own without a plan, these young people are flung into the world’s chaos with inadequate services and many risks compromising their survival. No person trying to finish high school, pursue higher education, or successfully transition into adulthood should experience the tragedy of homelessness.
As the number of unaccompanied youth rises, our need for social services and adequate housing becomes more urgent.
To date, there are virtually no supportive services or safe housing to address the needs of unaccompanied youth in many parts of the state. This has to change. Fortunately change is under way!
On Tuesday, July 16, a major piece of legislation to begin addressing the problem of youth homelessness in Massachusetts.
House Bill 135 will be up for a hearing at the State House at 1pm in Room B-1. This bill would create social services for these youth, building up the work of the Massachusetts Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth.
You are invited to come to this hearing to give testimony in support of this bill or to simply stand in the room as a sign of solidarity. If you can’t attend the hearing, please considering calling our legislators, state Sen. Bruce Tarr and Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, to encourage their continued support for House Bill 135.
Public Policy Advocate, Mass. Coalition for the Homeless