The hidden homelessness problem we all need to talk about
There are certain things many of us are sometimes guilty of taking for granted – including having a roof over our heads. But for thousands of people around the States, a place to call their own is a luxury they just don’t have. As a company that centers around what it means to feel at home, homelessness is an issue we feel strongly about. So as we approach World Homeless Day, we’d like to highlight an often hidden statistic about homelessness that we feel needs to be talked about more.
In these recent, difficult times, the homelessness situation in the States has got much worse – with over half a million people going homeless on a single night in the USA in 2020. While there are, of course, various reasons for people to end up on the streets, perhaps one of the most shocking stats is that around half of all homeless people are former foster children.
Why is there such a strong link between foster care and homelessness?
In order to grasp how this could be the case, we need to understand a little about the foster care system in America. Every two minutes – around the time it takes you to read this post – another child enters foster care in the USA. There are many different reasons that kids end up in foster care, but experiencing abuse and neglect by parents are among the most common. And once in care, a large majority will never be adopted by a family. A difficult situation to start with, but things can get even worse when these children grow up – because when their time in care is up, they often find themselves completely out on their own.
While there are systems in place to help some young people to find homes when theythat are “aging out” of foster care, as it is known, 20% of 18 year olds that were formerly in foster care will find themselves instantly homeless. And for many of those who are supported in finding homes, while they may end up with four walls to live in, that’s pretty much all they have. No proper furniture, no appliances, no light fittings or drapes – none of the home comforts that most of us would expect as a bare minimum – not to mention, in many cases, no family or friends to help them out. Needless to say, without these things, it’s very hard to feel at home and start to build a life – and without even a proper bed to sleep in, while you might technically not be homeless, you’re still living below the poverty line without even the basic essentials for survival. And when people are living in empty accommodation, they are, statistically, much more likely to ultimately end up on the streets.
What can be done about this situation?
Thankfully, there are organisations out there working hard to make a difference to young people’s lives. A Sense of Home, based in Los Angeles, was set up in 2014 after founder Georgie Smith, a designer and chef, answered a young man’s plea for help on social media – having just left foster care, he found himself in need of furniture and essentials. After helping him using unwanted furniture collected from people’s homes around the local area, Georgie saw the potential to help numerous others, and so the nonprofit was formed.
Relying on volunteers and donations, A Sense of Home has now helped over 1,500 former foster youth create comfortable and inspiring spaces of their own, in turn giving them a better chance of succeeding in work, education and community life. The nonprofit also serves an important sustainability purpose too – in helping young people furnish their homes, it also prevents perfectly usable preloved furniture, appliances and home goods from ending up in landfill. Examples of the kinds of goods that people can donate include:
Towels, hygiene products, shower curtains, waste baskets, bath mats.
Pots and pans, cleaning items, utensils, dishes, appliances.
Sofas, coffee tables, bookcases, rugs, throw pillows.
As A Sense of Home proves, it doesn’t take a lot to make a big difference in someone’s life – all the while, working towards making the link between foster care and homelessness a thing of the past.
CASA Home is proud to support A Sense of Home, with a portion of every purchase going towards the nonprofit’s vital work supporting people aging out of foster care. Read more about our partnership here.