Advocates tackle teen homelessness - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Advocates tackle teen homelessness

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Depression, addiction, and run-ins with the law, could await hundreds of thousands of homeless teens across the country, according to experts at national homeless organizations.

Nearly two million teens each year experience homelessness, according to national research on the issue, and Columbus leaders are looking to tackle the problem in the Valley.

"It's not safe, not knowing where you can rest your head and be relaxed and close your eyes and know you will be safe while you sleep takes a toll on a person," said Elizabeth Dillard, director of the Homeless Resource Network.

For the homeless resource network and other advocates in the valley, understanding how many are on the streets is nearly impossible, as many homeless teens find a friend's couch to crash.

"Youth homelessness is very hidden, it's a very awkward place because we don't have shelters that can serve people of younger ages," said Dillard.

National research shows up to 40 percent of the 1.7 million cases of teen homelessness involve a teenager that is a member of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and transgender community.

Columbus leaders continue to discuss expanding resources for teens who find themselves forced from their home after "coming out" to their parents.

"Either the child is experiencing a violent or uncomfortable situation or just feeling un-welcomed," said Dillard.

The Atlanta-based organization Lost-n-Found says 63 percent of homeless LGBT teens express conflict at home, while 39 percent say their family will not tolerate their presence, both leading reasons for their homelessness.

Columbus organizers say it's a traumatic ordeal for young adults, and hopes to see more local initiatives and resources.

"More needs to be done to address all of homelessness and youth are certainly a part of that," said Dillard.

 Experts say teenage pregnancies and other behaviors can also lead to a young adult being kicked out of their family's home.

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