Reflecting on My Experiences as a Homeless Youth with Disabilities

From Disability Visibility: For Complete Post, click here…

On any given night, approximately 41,000 unaccompanied youth between the ages of 13 and 25 navigate homelessness alone. These youth make up a significant fraction of the 4.2 million young people who have no permanent housing. 79% of these youth report surviving multiple instances of childhood abuse. 21-42% report surviving sexual abuse. To survive, many unaccompanied youth engage in survival sex, sleep with friends or strangers, in cars, shelters, or on the streets. Many of them are LGBTQ+, parenting or pregnant. Many have disabilities: 69% of homeless youth indicate struggling with their mental health, and many struggle with their physical health due to poverty and lack of access to healthcare, or die due violence or suicide.

I know the trauma of being an unaccompanied homeless youth with a disability because I was one of them. At 18 years old I became homeless after I fled my family home due to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Following my high school graduation, I packed my bags into a friend’s car and fled to a former teacher’s house who knew of my situation. That first night homeless, she invited me to sleep inside in a spare bedroom, but severe asthma triggered by allergies to her cat and dog meant I was eventually sleeping outside on a blow-up mattress on her porch. Unable to stay because of increasing difficulty with my breathing, I couch surfed for the next several days between the beds and floors of friends and strangers until I found refuge in a local youth shelter.

Leave a Reply