During the Wilder Research triennial Statewide Homeless Survey in 2012, researchers interviewed 207 homeless young parents (age 21 or younger), who accounted for 29 percent of all homeless youth in Minnesota. This population of homeless youth is often unable to access resources because they are too young to meet the requirements for services intended for homeless families, and, at the same time, they are ineligible for services for homeless youth because they have their own children. The unintended consequences of well-intentioned policy had left this highly vulnerable group to fend for themselves at a time when the cognitive skills of young parents have not fully matured. The Family Housing Fund’s Visible Child Initiative committed to a discovery process to understand the needs and status of homeless adolescent parents and their children.
Through a series of interviews with 15 service providers and two focus groups with homeless or formerly homeless adolescent parents safety, stability, education, and employment were identified as key goals goal for homeless young parents. However, both groups noted that age and childcare challenges often stand in the way of achieving young parents’ goals, despite the mainstream resources that are supposed to support them. Housing was discussed by both groups as one component of stability, and it was noted that shelter and supportive housing is not designed for and often will not accept parenting youth, especially youth that are under age 18.
Based on the discovery project the Family Housing Fund’s Visible Child Initiative supports Minnesota’s Heading Home 2016-2017 plan to prevent and end homelessness. Specifically related to homeless adolescent parents, the Visible Child Initiative recommends developing support of front line staff working with homeless parenting youth and their children, increase housing opportunities for parent youth who are under age 16, and increasing the connection between and ease of access for mainstream support services.