SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Community Partnership of the Ozarks released some survey results Monday which shed light on why youth become homeless in the Springfield community.
The survey got responses from about 375 high-risk and homeless youth and was conducted at area agencies which work with at-risk youth.
Of the 375 youth surveyed, 58 percent had experienced some type of homelessness and 38 percent were homeless without their family.
The survey found several family life issues increase the chance a youth will be homeless alone.
When Xavier Kirven got into a heated argument with his mother at age 17, it was the last straw, and he was kicked out of his house.
“I was homeless there for awhile and I was like basically couch surfing with friends and stuff and didn’t have like a whole lot of choices like family or anyone to talk to at this time,” Kirven said.
50 percent of youth who found themselves homeless alone say they were kicked out like Kirven — and the survey points to several family issues brewing in their lives.
Half have had parents who abuse alcohol or drugs, half have been witnesses or victims of trauma and almost half have struggled with a mental illness.
“To me that says there are problems that are happening within the home, these problems are not being addressed, and these youth are becoming homeless because they are being kicked out of abusive homes,” said Loni Brewer, Director of Rare Breed Youth Services.
The survey also found 55 percent of those who were homeless identify as members of the LGBTQ community.
“We need to educate ourselves and we need to stop judging and realizing that these are kids that we are throwing away,” Brewer said.
Brewer said community members should start conversations with a youth who may have a few cuts or bruises or is wearing the same clothes.
“Here what we find at the center is asking a youth how your day was, we’re the first person that’s asked the question and that’s even cared about them that day,” Brewer said. “And then they start telling the story of what has happened and we start seeing all of the problems that are going on at home.”
One of those conversations led Kirven to Rare Breed three years ago.
“I was anti-social back then, really didn’t open up to a whole lot of people,” Kirven said. “I think me working with other youth and stuff benefits me, like helps me.”
Kirven is now engaged to someone he met with Rare Breed, has plans to attend college and is also working on finding a job.