Nancy Thoma, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says the number of homeless youth in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas increased by 17% between 2015 and ’16.
“In January 2016, we found 1,142 people under the age of 25 were homeless in our region,” Thoma says. “And 185 of them were not even sheltered…so, on the street.”
Thoma has helped organize the “Ending Youth Homelessness in the Heartland” conference. She says a study found many of the homeless young people in the region come from families that had been homeless at one point.
“Or they’ve had instances of abuse or their house has had issues with drug addiction or mental health,” Thoma said. “Many of the kids who left their home, 45-percent, said they’d either been kicked out or no one would want to live in the kind of home they lived in.”
National and regional leaders in fighting youth homelessness will spearhead the daylong conference. According to Thoma, it takes many groups working together in a community to help those young people find both employment and safe housing.
“We have some examples where community providers have pulled together advisory committees of youth – they’ve pulled together people from all professional walks of life that need to support young people if they’re going to get through that transition,” Thoma said.
More than 200 people have registered to attend the conference, set to take place today from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center in Kansas City.