San Diego lacks Political leadership. Todd Gloria is no longer a champion for homelessness in San Diego with his move to the State Assembly. San Diego lacks a Political leader with vision, science, charisma, empathy, and financially responsible decisions. Serve San Diego hopes to expand on the challenges San Diego faces with homelessness and offer a voice of science, solutions, and hope.
Every year there are approximately 1.6 million runaway or homeless children (Hammer et al. 2002). One in every seven youth will run away from home by the age of 18 (Ibid). Every year, assault, illness, and suicide claim an estimated 5k runaway and homeless youth (Ibid). Three studies by the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have shown only 21% of runaway/ thrown away youth were reported missing (Ibid). Over 20% of runaways and thrown aways report being afraid to go home (Ibid). Of those youth in shelters, 62% indicated that a member of their family or household told them they were no longer wanted (Epstein & Greenberg 2003). Additionally, 71% of youth on the streets risk endangerment during their runaway/ thrown away episode by virtue of factors such as substance dependency, use of hard drugs, sexual or physical abuse, presence in a place where criminal activity was occurring, or extreme young age of 13 years old or younger (Hammer et al. 2002). Approximately 30-40% of youth who experience trauma will suffer from PTSD (Salazar et al. 2013). The longer we allow children and youth to live on the streets, in cars, couch surfing, doubling, or are in housing transition, the greater the costs will be for service providers to use evidence based practices to remedy mental health (Osofsky, 2013). Serve San Diego hopes to offer cutting edge evidence based interventions, to heal, prevent, and overcome trauma. As well as, provide resources to refer children and youth in need.
Children who experience homelessness, domestic violence are at risk for suffering ‘‘negative behavioral, cognitive, social, and emotional outcomes’’ (Osofsky, p. 162). Approximately 26 percent of all children in the United States will witness a traumatic event prior to the age of four (Morse and Wiley 2012, p. xv). As well, children who experience early adversity and have impaired brain circuits are susceptible to addiction (Sinha 2008). Dr. Vincent Felitti and colleagues found: “A powerful graded relationship exists between adverse childhood experiences and risk of attempted suicide throughout the life span. Alcoholism, depressed affect and illicit drug use, which are strongly associated with such experiences” (Felitti et al. 2001). Risk of suicide and self-harm are extremely endangering to the health and well-being for all of San Diego. Together, we need safe, transparent, affirmative, empathetic, and loving environments which nurture a dialogue on mental health, our children, and our trauma as adults.
What impact does this problem or need have? Who is affected? How are they affected?
Youth between 15 and 25 years of age experience the second most critical stage in human brain development (Center on the Developing Child 2011). Youth confront numerous barriers and stigmas before and during their homelessness, which exacerbates their vulnerability. Homeless children and youth are experiencing a trauma, which affects their cognitive and emotional stability thereby damaging short- and long-term well-being. Ongoing exposure to traumatic stress is toxic and damages a child’s physiological, emotional, cognitive functioning, and identity formation (Guarino, Rubin, & Bassuk, 2007). Thus, child and youth homelessness can compromise the genetic ability of youth to transition into adulthood successfully. Dr. Bruce Perry explained how “these crucial associations between positive human interactions, rewards systems, and the stress response networks are the neurobiological glue for all future healthy relationships. They are at the core of why empathy matters” (Perry & Szalavitz 2010 p. 20) Thereby, homelessness is a trauma that specifically alters adolescent development. Therefore, we require tailored responses for children and youth homelessness than adults who are chronically homeless. The sense of dire urgency is not understood. Our youth are extremely at risk to damage their cognitive brain development, which often leads to mental illness.
Consequently, Serve San Diego seeks to become an innovative leader in child homelessness, an online community, building bridges, resources, and opportunities for children and families to thrive.
Center on the Developing Child. (2011). Building the brain’s “air traffic control” system: How early experiences shape the development of executive function. Cambridge, MA: Author. Retrieved from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu
Dube, S. R., Anda, R. F., Felitti, V. J., Chapman, D. P., Williamson, D. F., & Giles, W. H. (2001). Childhood abuse, household dysfunction, and the risk of attempted suicide throughout the life span: findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. Jama, 286(24), 3089-3096.
Guarino K., Rubin L., & Bassuk. E. (2007). Trauma in the lives of homeless families. In E. K. Carll (Ed.), Trauma psychology: Issues in violence, disaster, health, and illness (pp. 231–258). Westport, CT: Praeger
Hammer, H., Finkelhor, D., & Sedlak, A. J. (2002). Runaway/thrownaway children: National estimates and characteristics.
Levin-Epstein, J., & Greenberg, M. H. (2003). Leave No Youth Behind: Opportunities for Congress To Reach Disconnected Youth.
Appleyard K, Osofsky JD. Parenting after trauma: Supporting parents and caregivers in the treatment of children impacted by violence. Infant Mental Health Journal. 2003; 24:111–125.
Perry, B., & Szalavitz, M. 2010. Born For Love. New York: HarperCollinsPublisher
Salazar, A. M., Keller, T. E., Gowen, L. K., & Courtney, M. E. (2013). Trauma exposure and PTSD among older adolescents in foster care. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 48(4), 545-551.
Sinha, R. (2008). Chronic stress, drug use, and vulnerability to addiction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1141(1), 105-130.
Toro, P. A., Dworsky, A., & Fowler, P. J. (2007). Homeless youth in the United States: Recent research findings and interventions. In D. Dennis, G. Locke, & J. Khadduri (Eds.), Toward understanding homelessness: The 2007 national symposium on homelessness research (pp. 6-1– 6-33). Washington, DC: Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.