A study by UC Berkeley researchers tracked 218 homeless young person over six years; in that time 11 succumbed largely due to suicide or substance abuse
Young people living on the streets of San Francisco have a mortality rates that is more than 10 times higher than those who have a place to live, largely because of suicide or substance abuse, according to a study from the UC Berkeley school of public health.
This is a phenomenon of our greater and greater acceptance of the poverty of children, told Dr Colette Coco Auerswald, who led the six-year examine that was published online on Thursday in the open-access periodical PeerJ. I was born in the 60 s, grew up in the 70 s. There were humen, alcoholics, on the street in Washington DC. They were suffering. But there werent legions of young person on the street.
Auerswald and her research squad studied 218 young homeless people ranging in age from 15 to 24. Two-thirds of the youths were male and one-third were female.
All had reported unstable housing for at the least two days during the previous six months, meaning they lived outside of their homes with people who were not in their families in cars, shelters, squats, on public transport, in single-room tenancy hotels, or outdoors, with strangers.
Over the course of the study, 11 of them succumbed. Thats 5% of the study group, a rate 10.6 times higher than what would be expected for a similar group matched for age, race and gender. Three of the homeless youths killed themselves. One was a murder victim. Others were cut down by substance abuse.
The deaths, Auerswald told, were preventable.
Of the eight young men and three young women who died, two-thirds had injected medications at some phase. The examine also showed that young homeless females were more likely to die than young homeless humen. Their mortality rates was 16 times greater than their peers, while young men in the study succumbed at a rate 9.4 times greater than their peers.
Women are in a very vulnerable place socially on the streets, Auerswald told. And theyre often in exploitative relationships where they are dependent on people who are hurting them in order to survive.
The most recent count in San Francisco, mandated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban planning, estimated that 1,378 youths are on the streets here at any given time. Most, however cycle in and out of homelessness.
Auerswald and her research squad did not seek out young person for the study by linking with them at drop-in centres or other programs; those homeless youths tend to be at lower risk.
Instead, they headed to Haight Street first, a popular San Francisco neighborhood for young homeless people to congregate. The researchers talked to youths there, asking about their lives and about other places where such homeless children gather. Then they went to the new place and asked the same questions.
That way, they created a map of young, homeless San Francisco, she told, discovering, for example the African American youth coming to Market Street selling marijuana and escaping violence in their own communities, the survival sexuality in this other neighborhood, the white children who travel.
We were interested in meeting youth where theyre at on the street , not in services, Auerswald told. Setting foot in services is a big act of religion that a large amount of children dont do.
Earlier studies both globally and in the US have shown that most young people become homeless not because they are delinquent or are there by choice. In the developed world, homeless youth tend to be fleeing neglect and physical or sexual abuse. In developing countries, poverty plays a bigger factor.
We tend to blame youth and wash our hands of it, but we have a moral and legal liability, she told, to reach out to homeless young people and help them get the subsistence and services they need.
I joke that my daughter is in a wrap-around program in New York City, with housing, vocational training, internships, education, health services, Auerswald told. Its called college.
She didnt go into it with a tremendous amount of trauma to recover from … The degree of support this high-functioning child is get is not matched by the best programs out there.
An earlier version of this article stated that the mortality rate of young women was 16% greater than their peers and of young men was 9.4% greater than their peers. The mortality rates respectively is 16 times and 9.4 times that of their peers.
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