Our current economic recession and tight job market have hit the country hard and no demographic group (except the super rich) have been spared hardship. Millions of middle class workers have lost their jobs, lost their homes and found themselves joining the ranks of the poor – a position they never thought could happen to them. It's been difficult for everyone, but hardest hit has been the 18-27 age group.
According to a report at The New York Times, these young adults – many of whom are recent college graduates or are currently in school – are forced to either live with parents (who may not be faring much better) or live in shelters. In fact, the BLS number show that this group has the highest unemployment rate of any age bracket.
This group of young adults are often referred to as “the boomerang generation”, because they leave home to go to college and after graduation they come back. While this might work out well for those whose parents are comfortably middle class and still have a family home for them to return to, many aren't so lucky. Many of these young people have parents who are out of work, who have lost their homes or have downsized, or even those whose parents are poor and struggling with the threat of homelessness themselves, moving back in just isn't an option. These young people are coming into an adult world that looks bleak.
In the article, the reporter followed several twenty-somethings who had lost their entry-level jobs and even though they've found new jobs, they aren't earning enough money to afford even the most modest of apartments. In fact, many of them are living in homeless shelters or on the streets.
The new face of homelessness is getting younger and it's a problem that can have a huge impact on our nation's future. To make matters worse, they are almost invisible. Because they see their situation as temporary, they are more likely to try to stay with friend or sleep on couches and they are considerably less likely to seek assistance. Even when they do reach out for help, they're less likely to receive it because most assistance programs are designed to work with struggling families and they lack the resources to help young, single adults. In Los Angeles, for example, an official count showed that there were 3,600 homeless young people and that the city's shelter system only had room for about 17 percent of them.
It's a serious problem and I wonder what will happen in 10 years when these people are in their 30's after having lost so much time. Instead of using their twenties to take career risks and build experience and financial stability, they will have spent it trying to survive on the streets.
I don't know what can be done to help these people. It's hard to imagine an entire generation being lost, but it could end up becoming the reality. If you or someone you know is struggling with these issues, encourage them to seek help. Although there are limited resources available, getting a helping hand now can mean the difference between building a better future or falling further behind.
What do you think about this change in homelessness? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Image Source: MorgueFile