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Youth homelessness is a growing problem in San Diego County

For the first time last year, unaccompanied young people were more likely than any other group to be without a place to live in San Diego County.

SAN DIEGO — Organizations, supporters, and community members from across the region dressed in green and gathered for a walk, rally, and resource fair Wednesday, all in support of ending homelessness for youth. 

Home Start, a non-profit agency that provides services tailored to prevent child abuse and neglect and to strengthen families, led the walk and rally in El Cajon as part of a first ever county-wide event to raise awareness for runaway and homeless youth.

On Tuesday, a rally was held in Chula Vista to bring more awareness to the issue.

SBCS (formerly known as South Bay Community Services) is an organization that offers support services to anyone that needs it. The group says youth homelessness in San Diego is a much bigger problem than most people realize. So on Tuesday, they gathered to ask for the community’s help.

“The reasons for being homeless hasn’t changed much over the years. Substance abuse, domestic violence in the family, family instability, poverty,” said Kathie Lembo, SBCS President & CEO. 

November is Runaway and Youth Homelessness Awareness month, and for the first time last year, unaccompanied young people were more likely than any other group to be without a place to live in San Diego County. At least one in ten young adults experienced homelessness.

“Young people tend to couch surf. They’re very ingenious, of how to sneak in friends’ homes and maybe sleep in the basement of a home or the attic of a home. So, you don’t see the young people as much as you may see other people,” Lembo said. 

Anyone up to age 25 is considered youth and SBCS has been helping them get their lives on track since 1971. The group also says young people of color and those from the LGBTQ community are disproportionately affected and at higher risk for experiencing homelessness.

“I used to work with adults, and they were telling me that they’ve been experiencing homelessness for 30 and 40 years. So right here is where it starts, targeting these youth getting them back into school and helping them where they need to be helped because it’s the future of our world, these young adults,” said  Alexis Johnson, SBCS Transition Program Coordinator. 

Lembo said ending youth homelessness can be done but it’ll take resources. Groups like San Diego Youth Services and the YMCA are working with SBCS to get young people the help they need including housing, support services and mental health services.

SBCS says the community can help by volunteering with an organization, give financial donations or by simply asking a young person if they’re doing OK and lending a helping hand. 

WATCH RELATED: Youth homelessness is a growing problem in San Diego County (Nov 16, 2021)

WATCH RELATED: How homelessness compares in the country's four most populous states

   

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