April 15th is Youth Homelessness Matters Day, and Lifewise and Youthline are joining forces to raise awareness about youth homelessness in New Zealand.
Many people see homelessness as something that happens to older people, but the truth is that young people under 25 make up nearly half of New Zealand’s homeless.
Youth homelessness is so much bigger than the young people you see sleeping rough. New Zealand has a growing population of “hidden homeless” – young people living in cars, on other people’s couches, in garages, or in extremely overcrowded conditions.
Many of the young people we work with have grown up in the foster care system, which ends when they turn 17. Any parent of teens knows how unrealistic it is to expect a 17 year old to be completely independent. You can’t even sign a lease agreement until you’re 18!
Transitioning to life as an independent adult only gets harder when a young person has already has a disrupted life in-and-out of the state care system. By the time young people exit care, they haven’t necessarily been taught House 101 things like how to make a budget.
The young people struggling with homelessness that we work with tend to come from unsafe or unstable homes. Deciding to leave home with nowhere to go is never a decision made lightly –often it’s because youth lack any other options.
When faced with constant fighting or domestic violence at home, many young people choose to take their chances going it alone. Young people struggling with homelessness face unique challenges – it’s hard enough just being a teenager without having to worry about where you’re going to sleep that night.
Youth homelessness is a tragic loss of potential for those trapped in the cycle. And it has long-term economic, social and health consequences that affect us all. With homeless youth more likely to become homeless as adults, it’s so important to find ways to help these vulnerable young people.
Lifewise and Youthline both work to help young people struggling with homelessness. We work alongside young people, giving them support as they navigate the complex world of income support, rentals, and helping them addressing the reasons they became homeless.
We firmly believe it is possible to end youth homelessness in New Zealand, but we need help to get there. By raising awareness about the challenges young people struggling with homelessness face, we hope to create a discussion about how the community can work to create a different future for our young people.