The years between age 18 and 25 are often thought of as the defining times of our lives. These are the years when young people begin to find their place in the world, whether in education, meaningful employment, or starting their own families.
Sadly, there’s an overlooked cohort of this age group who are simply struggling to survive. Among the stories of exciting new opportunities for young people, recently released studies by the University of Chicago have found that one in ten young people nationwide experienced some degree of homelessness in 2016.
It’s a damning statement about the state of the fight against homelessness when the most vulnerable, our young people, are subjected to such unfavorable life conditions. As we’ve seen previously, a disconcerting number of grade school children here in New York City suffer under the same unfortunate circumstances.
These findings, as one University of Chicago researcher points out, challenge the popular image of homelessness. As tempting as it may be for some to think that it’s the result of poor choices or upbringing, the hard facts show that this severe poverty can strike even the most innocent, in varying degrees.
So, what are we to do? Surely, these numbers should be shocking enough to spur major action to fight this problem. Unfortunately, that help has traditionally been slow to enact. It would seem that action from the top needs to happen, and soon. I know I’m not alone in hoping these recent shocking numbers will have that effect.
For those city, state and federal leaders whose policies can make a real impact, the fact that ten percent of our youth have lived in such conditions should serve as a wakeup call. Let us not forget, whether rich or poor, this younger generation comprises our nation’s future. If we can make this future a brighter one for our youngest and most vulnerable, we make it a brighter one for all.