The Importance of Having Legislation That Will Protect Unaccompanied Youth Experiencing Homelessness

By Bianca Carreriro
Intern and advocate at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless

As one of the interns at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, I've learned so much about youth homelessness. Currently I am a social work senior at Salem State University. I am in the final stretch of my undergraduate career and I couldn't be more excited. In a little over a month, I'll have my degree in hand as proof of all my hard work these past four years.

Although I am more than excited to be finishing up at Salem State, I can't help but remember all of the unaccompanied homeless youth that I've encountered over my time at the Coalition. In January and February, I interviewed over twenty unaccompanied homeless youth from Salem and Boston. The majority of these youth were twenty-one years old, just like me. Throughout the interviews, I was slightly uncomfortable: who am I to ask questions about homelessness, when I have never seen those atrocities? My privilege struck me like a bulldozer. Of course I was aware that homeless existed, but I didn't realize that people my age could also be exposed to it....or maybe, I just didn't want to realize it.

With the youth sitting across the table from me, all I could think of was, "that could be me." Homelessness does not discriminate; it can happen to anyone at any second. We are so involved in our own lives that we forget that social issues like homelessness exist until it's right in front of our faces. The youth that I interviewed were resilient, determined, and ready to move beyond their homelessness; all they needed was a little extra support. The Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Act could be that extra support.

I support this bill whole-heartedly because I don't think it's fair that there are people my age living on the street, or worrying about where to go to next.

I support this bill because I am a believer in community action. Youth are our future and that includes homeless youth. We need to give them every bit of support that we provide to housed children.

I support this bill because homelessness can happen to anyone. It can happen to my friends, my classmates, my little sister, and it can even happen to me. As a community, we can stand up for unaccompanied homeless youth by supporting this bill.

I ask you to think about the children and youth in your lives. Now imagine everything ripped from their lives and they're forced to live on the streets. Wouldn't you want your government supporting the children you care about? Please support House Bill 135 to give unaccompanied homeless youth a chance. They deserve the opportunity to escape the nightmare that is their reality.

As I cross the graduation stage next month, I will think of all the unaccompanied homeless youth I've met this year and hope that they will have the same opportunities that I have.
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