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Posted at 05:05 PM ET, 12/13/2011

Little known about D.C.’s young homeless, except that numbers are growing


Trevor Smith, 20, relaxes at the Wanda Alston House, a transitional home for homeless GLBT youths. (Jahi Chikwendiu - The Washington Post)
Though relatively little else is known about them, the number of homeless youths in the District has jumped, according to numbers released Tuesday by the National Center of Family Homelessness.

The number of homeless children in D.C. has jumped sharply since 2007, according to NCFH’s “America’s Youngest Outcasts” survey. In 2010, 4,309 children were found to be without stable housing in a city where 27 percent of households pay more than 50 percent of their income for rent and the minimum wage is $8.25 per hour.

The number of young homeless rose in Virginia and Maryland as well. D.C. wasn’t included in the state-to-state rankings, but Virginia and Maryland ranked 18th and 22nd for risk for homelessness, where nearly a quarter of households in either state pay more than 50 percent of their income for rent. Minimum wage in either state is $7.25 per hour.

The Post’s Tom Jackman reported in September that finding affordable housing — or even affordable temporary shelter — is always a prime cause of concern for families in distress.

“It’s not the type of homelessness people usually see and think of,” Helen Richardson, director of Loudoun Homeless Services Center, told Jackman at the time. “It’s very expensive to live around here. We’ve had very young couples with newborn babies, up to older people who’ve had jobs for 30 years, who were laid off.”

This week, the D.C. Alliance of Youth Advocates released a survey of 300 homeless youths that found that a growing number of them are parents younger than 24. Other data show that nearly 57 percent of homeless youths in D.C. are female, and 41 percent are homeless between the ages of 18 and 20. Neglect or abuse is the biggest reason those surveyed said they left home.

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