Homelessness at age 18

Matthew Friend

Eighteen is a turning point in the life of any American citizen.  Suddenly, teens have become legal adults, who may vote, be drafted into the military, and of course, sign themselves out of school.

But for youth who rely on public services or in the care of the state though, the countdown to this pivotal age is often a ticking time bomb.

According to Zara Babitzke, the Founding Director of Ambassadors of Hope and Oppurtunity, the number of resources available to homeless youth drops off dramatically when they become legal adults.  The foster care system, Children and Family Services, and other services meant for minors often become off-limits when a teen turns 18.

Youth aren’t ready to become independent at 18, Babitzke contends, and the loss of support can lead to further issues.

“[Youth under 18] are in school, they’re contained.  All the thinking and money goes there.  And the fact that youth are considered adults at 18, which in today’s world that isn’t happening,” Babitzke said.  “Unless you’ve had the experience of having to do everything on your own your entire life, no house, no support, no medical care, it’s incredibly hard to understand.”

Babitzke also said that when youth turn 18, they are recognized as adults, and are forced to share resources with all legal adults.  She warned against this, as more homeless adults have mental illnesses than youth, and can

“The problem, especially in Marin, is that the thinking is to throw them in with 50 and 60 year old homeless, which isn’t safe, it’s uninspiring, and the research says don’t do that,” Babitzke said.  “Think about it, would you want to be hanging with 50 and 60 year old homeless?”