The well-deserved recognition of Brockton-based School on Wheels of Massachusetts as a 2014 Champion in Action (“School on Wheels to be honored,” Feb. 13) brings regional visibility to a vastly underserved group.
At least 6,000 youths in Massachusetts public schools and thousands more out-of-school youths under age 24 are homeless and not in the care of a parent or guardian. Reasons for homelessness include abuse at home or in foster care, parental death or incapacity, or rejection by family. Unaccompanied youth are at great risk of physical illness, sexual exploitation, suicide, and failure to complete high school.
Currently no shelter or transitional housing in Southeastern Massachusetts is specifically designed to meet their unique needs. Local organizations have a protocol that provides safe spaces and case management for youth in adult shelters, but our region needs a continuum of youth-oriented services including street outreach, temporary shelter, and permanent supportive housing.
House Bill 135, “An Act Providing Housing and Support Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth,” would provide funding in each region of the Commonwealth to address these needs. Residents of Southeastern Massachusetts should contact their state representatives and urge its speedy passage.