335 high school students were identified as homeless in the Waco Independent School District in the 2017-18 school year.
161 of those students are also unaccompanied, meaning they are not in the care of a parent or guardian. Fewer than 25% of homeless students in Texas and across the U.S. graduate from high school. Youth homelessness is not only a problem in Waco, but across the nation. It's estimated that over 1.6 million youth experience homelessness each year.
Million youth experience homelessness on their own each year in the U.S.
Were abused physically in their homes
Report at least one parent who abuses drugs or alcohol
Homeless youth are some of the most vulnerable youth in Waco.
Most of these young people leave home because of severe family dysfunction, including abuse and neglect. Studies have found that 20-40% of unaccompanied homeless youth were abused sexually in their homes, while 40-60% were abused physically (NAEHCY). Often times, this abuse is what has led to their current situation of homelessness. These types of abuse and conflict are linked to higher rates of depression and attempted suicide, as well as poor physical health.
Many homeless youth are forced to trade their bodies for a shower, a hot meal, or a bed. In fact, out of all the factors that may increase a youth’s vulnerability to sex trafficking, homelessness is widely considered to be the most direct contributor (Estes and Weiner 2001, Institute of Medicine and National Research Council). Experts have reported that within 48 hours of running away, an adolescent is likely to be approached to participate in prostitution or another form of commercial sexual exploitation (Spangenberg, 2001).
Youth unemployment is a huge issue for our community.
Many students who do graduate from high school do not find gainful employment. In 2012, the Upjohn institute studied the City of Waco and found that in terms of living in poverty, 16-24 year olds were the most likely to be unemployed. The Financial Security Steering Committee of Prosper Waco has identified “increasing youth employment” as one of their three top goals. Because these students do not have stable housing and are often moving from place to place, access to food, medical insurance and care, transportation, jobs, and educational opportunities is extremely difficult.