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The Homeless and High Risk Youth Population in Springfield is the Focus of a New Study

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A new survey of homeless and high risk youth in Springfield provides insights into this population. KSMU’s Missy Shelton reports.

Click here to read the High Risk and Homeless Youth Survey Report (pdf file)

Those who work with homeless and high risk youth hope that this survey will be a wake-up call to the community. Of 456 young people who were surveyed, about 42 percent of them had been homeless. Some of those youth were homeless with their families, but others were homeless on their own. According to the survey, the average age that teens first experienced homelessness on their own was 15.Todd Duncan is chair of the Homeless Youth Subcommittee for the Community Partnership of the Ozarks. He also oversees The Rare Breed Youth Outreach Center in downtown Springfield. He outlines what the survey found as far as why these young people are homeless.

Duncan says, “When we look at the reasons for homelessness, number one being I was kicked out of my home. There were lots of arguments, number two. I was abused, number three. That’s very telling as far as why youth end up in homeless situations.”

Of the homeless and high risk youth who were surveyed, about 42 percent had been diagnosed with a mental illness. Duncan says the survey found that some youth engaged in disturbing behavior.

Duncan says, “One in four had self-mutilated within three months of this survey and one in six had contemplated suicide in the last three months.”

It’s difficult to get accurate counts of any homeless population. But Duncan says his sense is that the homeless youth population in Springfield is on the rise.

He says, “The sense that I have is that the numbers of homeless youth have been increasing. We’ve been setting record numbers for services delivered in our programs, going all the way back to the fall of 2008. At our outreach center in 2009, we served almost 1100 youth dropping in on us for help and really basic help.”

Duncan says he hopes that this survey of homeless and high risk youth in Springfield will raise awareness about the problem and will motivate people to help.

He says, “When we talk about the quality of our community, what kind of community we want to live in, and the kind of school environment we want our children in…The high rates of child abuse and neglect that we have in the community and knowing that abuse is pre-cursor in many homeless youth situations, we can begin to connect the dots. I’ve already felt the community coming to a greater level of awareness about homeless youth and we’ve felt some increased support.”

If you’d like to see the homeless and high risk youth assessment, we have a link to it on our website, KSMU.org.