Homeless youth need programs: MA Housing & Shelter Alliance

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 30 Mar 1999 08:12:23 -0800 (PST)


FWD  Boston Herald 01/11/99

HELP HOMELESS YOUTH WITH PROGRAMS, ADVOCATE SAYS

BOSTON (AP) - With the number of homeless young
people apparently on the rise in Massachusetts,
the head of an advocacy group said Monday that
more social services should be targeted
specifically at 18 to 24-year-olds.

Many of the newly homeless young people appear to
have emerged from state custody, which releases
them from foster care at age 18. The Department of
Social Services released 357 young people in 1997.
``Think back to your 18th birthday, could you have
gone out gotten a job and gotten an apartment that
would磛e supported you?创 said Philip Mangano,
executive director of the Massachusetts Housing
and Shelter Alliance. ``We want to see some
changes at the backdoor of the system.创

The alliance said preliminary figures show that
1,178 people aged 18 to 24 entered emergency
shelters last year, compared with 839 in 1997.
Of that 1,178, about 25 percent said in interviews
at shelters they had previously been in state
custody, Mangano said.

``We don磘 have any magical hold on them if they
say to us, 碔 am 18, and you have no control over
me anymore,创 said DSS spokeswoman Lorraine Carli.
``There磗 nothing we can do except we can try to
prepare them early on,创 she said.

Youths who leave DSS foster care and agree to go
to college can collect the approximately $17 a day
in reimbursement that had been paid to foster
parents.

Carli said there are about 70 youths in that
program.

But Mangano said the state should work to track
young people when they leave government custody to
see how many wind up on the streets or in jail.

``We need to know where these young people are
going,创 he said.

While Mangano couldn't point to one specific cause
for the increase in homeless young people, he said
the state's hot economy could be leaving behind
some young people with only minimal skills.

``Maybe several years ago when the housing market
was a little less tight they could have found
something,创 Mangano said.

Mangano also speculated that a decline in the
number of young people entering the armed forces -
from 360,000 in 1980 to 180,000 in 1995 - could be
contributing to the homeless problem.

``What happened to those half of the kids who are
no longer enlisting?创 he asked. ``They磀 have
education and a place to stay. And they磀 come out
with a skill. Plus the standing of being a
veteran.创

Youths who turn 18 and find they still need public
assistance wind up in adult programs, where
activists say they don't learn skills that will
put them on their feet.

``You put an 18-year-old kid in a shelter next to
a woman who is fleeing an abusive relationship or
in rehab, it磗 not the kind of role model you want
for the teen-ager,创 Linda Wood-Boyle, executive
director of Shortstop, a shelter in Somerville for
teens, told the Boston Herald.

Shortstop has a transitional program that offers
18-to 21-year-olds a place to live while they go
to school, but it has only nine beds.

The Bridge Over Troubled Water program in Boston
says it helps more than 2,600 teen-agers and young
adults a year.

A 19-year-old youth named Jack told the Herald his
mother had thrown him out of the house months ago
and that he had lost his job and had no place to
sleep.

``I had two jobs over the holiday, one at Ames and
the other at Kitchens Etc.,创 he said.

``But how can you go to work, get up in the
morning and work 14 hours when you didn磘 sleep
all night, when you walk around the city so you
wouldn磘 get cold?创 he asked.

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