Nicole Rejer is a freshman psychology major.
In a city as affluent as San Francisco, it can be easy to forget that homelessness is a big issue. We can see it on the streets, the buses, almost everywhere we go. There simply are not enough jobs that pay enough, and many people cannot make a living wage that will allow them to live comfortably. An SFGate article published in 2014 says there are enough homeless children in the San Francisco Unified School District to fill over 70 classrooms.
The homeless population is very stigmatized in this city, and this leads to neglect of the younger homeless population as well. They don’t have the same support from adults and are struggling to meet their most basic needs. In a study conducted by University of California, Berkeley, a research team followed over 200 young people, ages 15 to 24, throughout six years. Eleven of those kids passed away, and the researchers concluded that youth living on San Francisco’s streets are 10 times more likely to die than their peers. This is absolutely absurd, but a very sad reality. Most homeless youth are often neglected or abused by their families, and the streets are often the last resort for homeless teens to end up, sometimes even being safer than their actual homes.
Needless to say, homelessness can have a draining effect on anyone’s psyche, but it is the homeless youth population that will suffer the most in the long run. They are still developing physically, mentally, and emotionally, and without their basic needs, all development is stunted. Furthermore, the streets bring youth in very close contact with violence, drugs, and gang life–all factors that make it much harder for these teenagers to return to a normal life. Even if they stay in school, how are they expected to focus on mundane subjects such as algebra and US history when they cannot even figure out where their next meal will come from, or where they will sleep at night?
Homelessness is a difficult problem to solve, and in a big city like San Francisco, a feat that seems almost impossible. It is true that the city has been struggling with this issue for the last couple of decades. However, it is not something that we can choose to continuously ignore, especially with such statistics. If this city cares at all about its future generations, they will need to do something about this issue soon.
No matter how the city chooses to accomplish it, every child and teenager should be given the opportunity to obtain housing, food, clothing, and a quality education. There should be more outreach from different organizations that will go into the streets and help these young people by offering them different programs such as drug and alcohol abuse recovery programs, counseling for abuse and family issues, and tutoring to help get teens caught up in school. Provide them with whatever they want and need. A challenge? Yes, for sure. Is it worth it? 100%. It is immoral and unthinkable to allow a minor sleep out in the cold and not get a chance at being successful. We need to do everything we can to help.