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Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness


At age 14, Amy had lived in six different homes and was currently staying in the basement of the house belonging to her mom’s latest boyfriend, where he told her to stay “out of his sight.”

Sometimes the only meal she ate was school lunch.

Amy’s family was Hmong, and Amy and her sisters were first generation Americans. Amy lived two lives – that of an American teenager while at school, and that of a Hmong female at home.

Many Hmong families, including hers, still follow clan laws and rules, enforced by the head of the household and the head of the clan – even when contrary to American laws.

At age 14, under clan law, Amy’s “step-dad” sold her for a small dowry to another Hmong family in their Denver neighborhood, and she was married to the 18-year-old son of this family. Within a year she was pregnant and dropped out of school.

What followed was a series of run-ins with the law, bouts of homelessness while her baby girl stayed with her “husband’s” family, and eventually sleeping in a park in Arvada.

It was from that park that Amy called Hope House, desperate for a safe home for her daughter and herself.

Homelessness affects a surprising number of teen moms* and significantly exacerbates the formidable challenges they already face.

A study in the Children and Youth Services Review found significantly higher “rates of mental health problems such as mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidality” among homeless adolescent mothers “compared with demographically similar youths.”

Sadly, more than half of the 150 teen moms Hope House will serve this year are considered homeless, according to the definition established by the National Healthcare for the Homeless Council, which includes moving from couch to couch in one unstable home after another as a form of homelessness.

Hope House partners with several nonprofit housing partners, including Warren Village and Colorado Homeless Families, as often as possible. We also work withprivate family foundations willing to provide rental assistance to help keep a teen mom in her apartment when necessary.

The wait list at Hope House’s own Residential Program is long, but it has been diminishing thanks to program changes that allow teen moms to move more quickly through the program.

Without a doubt, homelessness presents a significant barrier to success for our young mothers, but their hard work and determination, partnered with the tools and resources provided by Hope House, can empower them to break the cycle of poverty and change the lives of their little ones.

Amy is a great example. While living at Hope House, she was able to earn her GED, begin college courses, and eventually get a job in the loan department of a bank. Now 22, Amy has been in her own apartment for three years, is off of government assistance, and is a terrific mother to Jasmine, who just started first grade.

Despite the stats, homelessness does not have to be the end of the story.

 

By Lisa Steven
Founder & Executive Director
Hope House of Colorado

 

*The exact number is difficult to determine. Adolescents will go to great lengths to avoid the shame of admitting they are homeless, making it impossible for local and national agencies to arrive at a number.

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Blog Archives

March 2017

Knowledge Share #13: Managing Volunteers: Benjamin Franklin had it right! - 03/13/2017


February 2017

Knowledge Share #12: Advocacy and Self-Sufficiency: Finding the Balance - 02/14/2017


January 2017

Knowledge Share #11: Effective PR and Spot On Communications - 01/18/2017


November 2016

Knowledge Share #10: I Walk the Line: Creating Deep Connections While Maintaining Professional Boundaries - 11/15/2016


September 2016

Knowledge Share #9: "Fundraising for Non-Profits: An Insider's Perspective" - 09/22/2016


August 2016

Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016


July 2016

Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016


June 2016

Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016


May 2016

Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016


April 2016

Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016


March 2016

Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016


February 2016

Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016


January 2016

Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016


December 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015


October 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015


July 2015

TEEN MOM BARRIER #6: GENERATIONAL POVERTY - 07/16/2015


June 2015

Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015


May 2015

Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015


April 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #3: The Unexpected Bill: Car Repair, Doctor's Visit, Broken Pipe - 04/03/2015


February 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015


January 2015

Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015


December 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #7: Teen Moms Are Completely Self-Absorbed - 12/29/2014


October 2014

Teen Mom Misconception #6: Teen moms drop out of school because they want to - 10/31/2014


September 2014

Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014


July 2014

Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach - 07/22/2014


June 2014

Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014


May 2014

Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014


April 2014

Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014


March 2014

Connecting across the Continents: Teen Moms and the People Who Love Them - 03/18/2014


February 2014

Can you break out of poverty with a vocabulary of just 900 words? - 02/17/2014


January 2014

Community - 01/20/2014


December 2013

8 Pennies - 12/18/2013


November 2013

"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013


September 2013

Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013


August 2013

The Cliff Effect and Other Perils on the Journey to Self-Sufficiency - 08/30/2013


July 2013

Breaking the Cycle: Do Poor Teens Have to Become Poor Adults? - 07/30/2013


June 2013

Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013


May 2013

Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013


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