Guest Post by Joe Willard, Vice President of Policy and Staci Perlman, Visiting Scholar of People’s Emergency Center in Philadelphia
Our latest report, Homeless Youth in Philadelphia shows findings from a survey — Youth Risk Behavior Survey — taken by youth who are enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia. The report includes an estimate of the prevalence and risk factors of the youth who experienced homelessness.
Study analyses revealed the following key findings:
- Approximately 8% of all Philadelphia public high school students reported having experiencing homelessness, and almost 11% reported that they had been kicked out, run away, or abandoned.
- Youth who reported ever having been homeless and youth who had been kicked out, run away, or abandoned, evidenced disproportionately higher rates of physical, mental, and sexual health risk behaviors and higher rates of substance use.
- The percent of youth who reported typically sleeping away from home with a parent more than doubled from 2009 to 2011. The percent of youth reporting that they typically slept away from home without a parent, i.e., “unaccompanied youth,” more than tripled in the same timeframe.
- The percent of youth who reported being kicked out, run away, or abandoned more than doubled from 2009 to 2011.
- Compared to housed youth, youth who were homeless with their families were:
– 2.6 times more likely to be forced to have sex
– Over 3 times more likely to get pregnant
– 3 times more likely to have attempted suicide
In addition to data from the YRBS, a series of key stakeholder interviews were conducted to develop a better understanding of the YRBS findings – and how they can be used to inform interventions and policies addressing the needs of youth experiencing homelessness.
The Philadelphia’s YRBS provides unique data on youth homelessness in Philadelphia. Adding housing questions to the national YRBS is an innovative method that should be of interest to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the federal agencies leading the effort to address homelessness. In addition, family emergency and transitional housing programs must persist in discovering the teens’ challenges and connecting these youth to services.