Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 287-299

First online:

Are there homeless youth in my community? Differences of perception between service providers and high school youth

  • Yvonne VissingAffiliated withSalem State College
  • , Joseph DiamentAffiliated withOdyssey House Foundation

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While teen homelessness, like all homelessness, is increasing, there have been few solid estimates of the actual number of teens effected. A twofold methodology to count homeless teens was used in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire and Maine. Social service agencies were contacted to obtain a count of homeless adolescents, and over 3000 high school age teens were surveyed in the seacoast of New Hampshire and southwestern Maine to identify how many were homeless. By using different definitions of homelessness, it was found that a minimum of 5% of all teens in high school reported that they had been homeless sometime during the past year. When using a broadened definition of homelessness, it was found that 20% of the teens regularly stayed with others. However, this experience was not identified by social service providers, who reported that teen homelessness simply was not a problem in their communities. In order to more accurately describe the phenomenon experienced by teens, it is proposed that the term “homelessness” should be replaced with a more inclusive word, such as “housing distress.”

Key words

homeless youth perception service providers