Editorial: Invisible homeless

As a Times story published on Thursday points out, the problem of youth homelessness is a growing one in Langley.

Thus far, it has remained largely invisible, because most homeless youth are not roaming the streets, collecting bottles and recyclables or lining up at the Gateway of Hope for a meal.

Many of them are, in fact, attending school. But when  classes are over, they have no permanent homes to go to.

This  may be due to a disagreement with their parents. It may be that there are no parents able to care for them. Addiction issues or other disruptions at their homes may have led to an  estrangment.

Yet the students who, despite all this, are continuing to attend school want to reach a better point in their lives. They want to graduate from high school, and perhaps go to college or university, or take other training.

Many come to school hungry, and most high schools have made arrangements to feed them. In some cases, they have also been helped with clothing. But it seems that, in most ways, they are left to fend for themselves.

This is a tricky situation, because in many cases, their parents are their legal guardians, yet have little contact with them. The ministry of children and family development can only do so much in such situations.

Another problem is that these teens can’t do a lot of things that people just a few years older can do. They can’t easily move to a new school, or sign a contract, such as a rental contract to live on their own.

Aldergrove Neighbourhood Services has taken the initiative in helping some of these teens and is lobbying for a small-scale shelter for teens who have no place to sleep. The agency acknowledges it is not a big problem — most homeless teens have a place to stay, often with the family of one of their friends.

This issue needs much closer study by provincial and local governments. Teens who want to better themselves, but do not have family support, need to be given a hand up.

If that happens, they won’t be requiring expensive social services in a few years. Instead, they will be working and paying taxes.

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