BLOG: KNOWLEDGE SHARE
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.
Knowledge Share #8: Breaking Out of Poverty - 08/18/2016
Knowledge Share #7: Creating a Home - 07/11/2016
Knowledge Share #6: The Power of Mindset - 06/14/2016
Knowledge Share #5: College or Bust! - 05/17/2016
Knowledge Share #4:Understanding Addiction - 04/07/2016
Knowledge Share #3:Mentoring Empowers Teen Moms - 03/21/2016
Knowledge Share #2: Healthy Relationships - 02/11/2016
Knowledge Share #1: Brain Development - 01/12/2016
Teen Mom Barrier #8: Communicating the Barriers - 12/16/2015
Teen Mom Barrier #7: Homelessness - 10/09/2015
TEEN MOM BARRIER #6: GENERATIONAL POVERTY - 07/16/2015
Teen Mom Barrier Number #5: Domestic Violence - 06/03/2015
Teen Mom Barrier # 4 The Challenges of College - 05/12/2015
Teen Mom Barrier #2: Childcare - 02/18/2015
Teen Mom Barrier #1: Society's Negative Expectations - 01/26/2015
Teen Mom Misconceptions #5: Success is Impossible - 09/22/2014
Misconception #3: Mentoring Teen Moms is Complicated - 06/05/2014
Because they want someone to love them? - 05/21/2014
Teen Moms - A Persecuted Population? - 04/22/2014
Community - 01/20/2014
8 Pennies - 12/18/2013
"The most courageous young women I know." - 11/14/2013
Our Graduates: In their hands, they hold the future! - 09/30/2013
Measuring the Intangible - 06/15/2013
Grown-Up Mom - 05/01/2013
Misconception #4: Shaming Teen Moms is an Effective Approach
Eva said: I am so proud of Vanessa good friend of mine and mother. [more]