YOUTH Homelessness Matters Day (YHMD) is on Wednesday, April 9. Youth homelessness as an issue that has been around for a long time, but misconceptions surrounding it still exist.
I want to break down some of the most common myths:
Myth 1: People often think that young people make the decision to be homeless because they are rebelling against their parents' house rules.
Debunking the myth: This couldn't be further from the truth. The most common cause of youth homelessness (and homelessness in general) is domestic and family violence.
If a young person feels threatened enough at home, they'll risk the dangers of the street rather than remain in a violent household.
Living on the streets can be extremely dangerous; that's why a young person's decision to leave their home is not taken lightly.
Myth 2: Young people experiencing homelessness are all mentally ill.
Debunking the myth: This is just not the case. Often homeless youth are dealing with complex family issues or abuse (as mentioned above, domestic violence is the number one cause of homelessness) and need help coping with that. Being homeless doesn't change the fact that these young people have hopes and dreams. Youth Off The Streets aims to unlock those hopes and dreams and give disadvantaged young people the opportunity to fulfil them.
Myth 3: "Homeless young people are usually deviant or criminals," is the third misconception that incorrectly portrays homeless youth.
Debunking the myth: This false belief seems to stem from the most common misconception about youth homelessness and is equally untrue.
The amount of young people who are homeless because of criminal convictions or deviant behaviour is insignificant and doesn't make the list of 'causes for homelessness' in the latest AIHW Specialist Homelessness Services report for 2012-13.
It is important that days like Youth Homelessness Matters Day exist and that we address the most common misconceptions about youth homelessness because that is how we start fixing the issue.
Breaking down misconceptions and getting people to empathise with young homeless people is a step toward helping them get back on track.
On YHMD, the Yfoundation is asking everyone to share what home means to them and to think about whether they would have had the same opportunities in life if they didn't have a stable home.
I urge everyone to start a discussion about youth homelessness on Wednesday, April 9. You may hear some of the misconceptions outlined previously and hopefully you will take the opportunity to correct them.
For more information about YHMD, please visit the Yfoundation's website. For more information about Youth Off The Streets and our involvement with homeless youth, please visit www.youthoffthestreets.com.au