CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Youth homelessness is a growing problem in Charleston. The Riley Center for Livable Communities recently surveyed College of Charleston students and found 30% are living with housing or food insecurity.
According to Robert Kahle, Director of Research at the Riley Center, "They either aren't getting enough to eat to be healthy or they don't have stable housing."
This means they could be living in their cars, couch surfing, or staying up all night and sleeping in public areas like libraries during the day.
Kahle says, "We know that some are disconnected from their families, and that's probably the biggest part. And then they have to work, take out loans, and try to get grants to cover tuition and room and board. And it's okay in the Freshmen and Sophomore year, but after they move to being upperclassmen, they max out in terms of the amount of loans they can get."
This is a huge problem for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
Melissa Moore, Executive Director of We Are Family, says, "While the general population, about 7% identify has LGBT, about 40% of youth who are on the street nationwide who are experiencing homelessness identify as LGBT. So the problem is disproportionate, it effects LGBT youth at a much higher rate."
We Are Family is a nonprofit which works to track down the homeless youth and give them resources. She says the main reason why LGBT youth are homeless is because they were rejected by their families after coming out.
Moore says, "We had a case of a kid who turned 18 years old and it was around Thanksgiving and his family was from the Upstate. As soon as he turned 18, his dad had brought him to Charleston because it's a warmer climate and he thought his son could be warm and homeless at the same time in Charleston."
These kids also have less options in terms of resources because they are often targeted at shelters.
Moore says, "Our shelter systems are more adult focused, so when these kids end up in a shelter they are threatened, they get called slurs, and they get threatened with bodily harm. So things are a lot worse for them when they end up on the street."
There are a few ways local organizations are working to combat this problem.
We Are Family has developed a Host Family Program for volunteers to help house homeless young adults between 18-25. If you are interested in becoming a host family, email email@example.com.
We Are Family is also fundraising for a Drop-In Center where youth can take a hot shower, get a meal, and a nap. You can donate by clicking here.
The group is holding a "Trick or Trot" fundraiser 5K and one mile dog walk on Saturday, October 28th at 9 AM in Park Circle. Register by clicking here.
The College of Charleston has developed a donation option for students an alumni to contribute to a homeless student's meal card so they can eat free in the dining halls. If you want to contribute to this program, contact the Student Affairs Office at (843)953-5522.
You can also donate toiletries that will be given to homeless youth. They can be dropped off Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM- 5 PM at the College of Charleston Community Assistance Program (14 Coming Street) or the Riley Center for Livable Communities (176 Lockwood Blvd.). You can donate to the Riley Center's Youth Count 2017 initiative, here.