In April, 2021 I, along with fellow Niagara University student Adam Kiedrowski, presented a paper at the United Nations Economic and Social Council Youth Forum. We suggested using social media to connect at-risk populations to services to help mitigate future homelessness and other societal problems.
Our research began with two inquiries:
- What are the causes of youth homelessness in the United States?
- How can technology be used to decrease homelessness?
Long-term homelessness has been on the downtrend since the 2007-08 financial crisis. However, homelessness has been increasing 3% a year for the past three years. Furthermore, the number of youth experiencing homelessness (YEH) has also been increasing. On account of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected that any gains in the reduction of homelessness over the past decade will be wiped out. For these reasons, it is critical to reexamine the issues surrounding homelessness and to create innovative, effective, and long- lasting solutions.
The causes of YEH
Our research began by asking: What are the causes of youth homelessness? The research indicated that the causes include poverty, economic insecurity, housing insecurity, mental health issues, history of juvenile delinquency, the status of LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual), sexual history, drug and alcohol use, and being a victim of abuse and/or violence.
After determining the causes, we investigated how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the existing YEH population and other individuals that may become susceptible to homelessness. Our findings suggest that among current YEH, COVID has increased feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, depression,
and substance use. Simultaneously, it has become harder for people to obtain the basic needs and services that are critical for the long-term success of individuals.
Knowing what we know about some of the causes, and the effects the pandemic has had on existing populations, we identified a conundrum: If someone has an issue, as outlined above, where do they go for help? Especially for a YEH during a global pandemic, help is hard to come by. We offer suggestions to overcome this problem.
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