Addressing homelessness among young adults remains complicated, multi-layered issue

MichiganHuman InterestHealthCommunity Home
Collaborator: Rachael Schuit
Published: 09/14/2023, 3:11 PM
Edited: 09/18/2023, 5:12 PM

(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), it’s estimated that one in ten young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 will experience homelessness at some point in their lives. 

The unique situations and challenges that contribute to and impact youth homelessness are something Artemis Tally, the Street Outreach Coordinator at Arbor Circle, an organization that helps homeless youth in Grand Rapids is no stranger to. 

Tally spends their days visiting places like downtown Grand Rapids, Rosa Parks Circle, parks, and coffee shops meeting with youth experiencing homelessness. Part of Tally's job is to check in on these youth and see if there’s any resources Arbor Circle might be able to offer them. 

Arbor Circle offers counseling services to youth experiencing homelessness, assistance finding employment, as well as host homes and scattered site apartments for young people between the ages of 18 and 20 without a place to call home.

As part of the Street Outreach Team, Tally wears a large backpack when they go out to meet with homeless youth. They are able to hand out supplies including snacks, water bottles, sunscreen, deodorant, and charging cables. 

In the last year, Tally says they have worked with 200 unaccompanied youth under the age of 25 in the Grand Rapids region who have experienced homelessness. 

“The biggest misconception is that it isn't happening,” said Tally. “I think it's not as visible. Homelessness can look very different for folks. If they have access to showers and laundry they can keep their appearances looking better because at the end of the day no one wants to go through that stigma."

Tally says it’s common for young people experiencing homelessness to not want to stay in a shelter because they’re intimidated. 

"Sometimes they stay in their cars, sometimes they stay with friends so like couch surfing," Tally said.  "That can be a very big way that folks experiencing homelessness make sure that they can have a place to rest their head.”

However, staying with friends is only a temporary solution and still doesn’t address the root causes of the issue of homelessness. 

“If that relationship gets damaged somehow then now they don't have a place at all and that's just a new struggle that they're going to have to deal with,” said Tally. 

There’s not one single cause of youth homelessness.  Tally says conflicts with family, aging out of the foster care system, and coming from a homeless family can leave many young adults without a place to call home. 

Studies have shown people of color and the LGBTQ population are two groups that experience youth homelessness at higher rates.  

According to True Colors, an organization that works to assist homeless LGBTQ youth, these young people are 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ youth. 

The True Colors website states that up to 40% of the homeless youth population identifies as LGBTQ. 

"There's a very large LGBTQ population who also experiences homelessness, so like kind of circling back to the familial conflict of not having acceptance in the home," Tally said. "And basically being like I can't stay here anymore because it's not safe for me anymore, sometimes physically, sometimes mentally." 

When it comes to addressing the issue of youth homelessness, Tally says that’s also complicated. 

"Landlords, especially if a person doesn't have any rental history, they're like no I don't want to rent out to you and then it's just kind of like or resources not being youth centered,” Tally said. 

Another issue that Tally and other advocates for the homeless say needs to be addressed: creating housing that’s affordable and having enough housing inventory for the people who need it.  

"Housing is even more competitive now than what it's been for the last five years so everyone's trying to get in the rat race, everyone's competing for the smaller number of housing,” said Tally. 

More information about services offered by Arbor Circle for youth experiencing homelessness can be found on their website


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