Homeless agencies and service providers in Western New York are gathering Monday to launch a survey to gather statistics on homeless youth.
With anywhere between 1,500 to 2,000 young people on the streets in any given year, The Youth Task Force says data is needed to solicit funding to combat the problem. It will be looking for young people under the age of 25, specifically.
Not all homeless youth are considered homeless. Some engage in "couch surfing," staying with a relative or friend temporarily, with no guarantee that person will have a permanent place to stay. The people who couch surf, sometimes referred to as the “hidden homeless,” are not considered homeless by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Lisa Freeman, Executive Director of Compass House, says she and other organizations have a different opinion.
“We consider it homeless because honestly you’re not living with your family,” Freeman told WBFO. “You don’t have a place to go [and] you don’t have a permanent residence so, in our eyes, and pretty much every homeless agencies' eyes, that is considered homeless.”
Freeman says there are wide range of factors that contribute to youth homelessness, from abuse to dysfunctional homes to financial instability.
“There are kids that are abused that will run away and just be homeless because they don’t want to be abused. There’s just so many reasons out there,” Freeman said.
Community volunteers will be participating in a 24-hour couch surfing demonstration that will highlight the struggles of youth homeless.