Did you know that the number of poor in American suburbs has grown by 64 percent since 2000, compared to 29 percent growth in cities? This is especially prevalent in Dallas-Ft. Worth. Local research shows a 112-percent increase within DFW suburbs over the last 10 years, and there are multiple reasons for the growth in Collin County.
Two economic recessions have certainly contributed. The foreclosure crisis, along with the loss of white-collar jobs hit the suburbs the hardest. But other trends have contributed such as immigration and low-income families following the growing retail and service industry jobs into Collin County. Combined with some long-term residents slipping down the economic ladder, it has resulted in the growth of poverty. Certainly when Forbes rated the Collin County public school district second in the nation when it came to getting the most educational benefit for the taxpayers’ dollar in July of 2007, many families came in hopes of better educational opportunities for their children and to seek jobs for themselves.
Families facing poverty and other economic stressors have an increased risk for physical abuse within the home. The families from which our current runaway homeless youth (RHY) population come from are often chaotic and abusive, with limited financial and community resources. Much of this is a result of a poor economic situation, and limited availability of resources. Forty-seven percent of our RHY indicated conflict between themselves and their parent(s) as a major problem. Parents feel they are not able to communicate effectively with their children, so these stressors continue to build until they become explosive and parents kick them out of the home. Other RHY clients are affected by drug use and domestic violence within their home, so they find it safer to live on the street or couch surfing with friends and neighbors.
In January 2013, the Collin County Homeless Coalition, as part of the MDHA Homeless Count, conducted a point-in-time survey and reported more than 1,800 homeless students in Collin County. RHY is a population which often goes unseen, and thus unreported, because almost 66 percent are temporarily couch surfing and do not consider themselves homeless, despite that they have been kicked out or have run away from their home. This year Frisco ISD reported 187 homeless kids, 21 of whom were without parents. Thirteen of this year’s graduating seniors were homeless! McKinney ISD reported more than 1,400 homeless youth by the year’s end.
The number of homeless youth will continue to grow along with the population of Collin County and the growth of poverty in the suburbs. The consequences of homelessness bring despair to youth in the form of mental-health problems, substance use, victimization and criminal activity, unsafe sexual practices, and barriers to education and employment. These problems further burden society with the cost of finding ways to take care of these youth. If they are not helped, they will likely become an addition to the population of chronic homeless adults.
City House is the only organization in Collin County specifically designed to serve these children, youth and young adults, and they have been doing it for 25 years. At City House, kids suffering from abuse, neglect, emotional crises, severe family conflict and other traumatic experiences get the help they need while finding healing and hope in a safe and caring environment. Our programs build trust, offer support, encourage loving, caring, healthy relationships, and teach kids just how precious they are. City House profoundly changes the lives of youth and the families we serve. With limited public transportation throughout the county, many youth and/or families cannot benefit from the existing services, or they need to leave their immediate community to reach a shelter. There is clearly a need for increased services if we are going to meet the growing demands in Collin County.
We continue to fill the needs of our youth under 18 at our Emergency Shelter, My Friend’s House, but there is a growing need for preventive family counseling and aftercare. Collin County’s older youth ages 18 to 22 are the most underserved population. After leaving school and the services provided, or aging out of foster care, this group is often out on their own.
In 2014, City House is expanding both our preventive counseling and Transitional Living Program. This will include additional counselors and case managers along with resource centers and transitional living homes within other cities in the county, beginning with Frisco. This can only be accomplished with the support of our local communities (cities, churches, organizations, businesses and residents). We can collectively break the cycle of poverty and homelessness by providing every child unconditional respect and love, help with schooling and finding jobs and apartments, assistance with mental and physical health needs, and a shared belief in their future and their ability to follow their dreams.
Your help is needed! It takes a community to battle youth homelessness and the need continues to grow. We hope you will join the City House community; help us build “best in class” integrated programs for these homeless youth today and the sustaining funds to ensure the future.