Number of Older Teens Seeking Help Soars

If someone asked you “What does Daybreak do?” how would you answer? You might reply that Daybreak is the community’s only emergency shelter for runaway and homeless teens. Of course, you’d be correct. After all, that’s how we began almost 37 years ago. And our shelter is still operating and helping runaway and homeless teens, 24 hours a day.

However, over the years, the faces of runaway and homeless youth in our community have changed. They’ve grown older. Today, we still see young teens, but most youth coming to Daybreak for help are 17, 18, 19 or even 20 years old. They’re unable to return home. They’re too old for adoption and too young and inexperienced to live on their own. They really have no place to go.

These young people see themselves as adults—after all they are 18—but have no idea what it means to be a responsible, self-sufficient adult. Many come from households with incomes at or below poverty level and most have witnessed or been a victim of some type of abuse. They have limited educations, little or no work experience, few resources, and no family support.

Older teens are the new face of Daybreak youth, and we expect this trend to continue. More and more 18-year-olds are being forced from their homes with instructions to make it on their own, and record numbers of youth are aging out foster care.

They come to us looking for a place to sleep and something to eat, but those willing to stay and join our Daybreak family leave with so much more. It’s not a free ride. It’s certainly not easy. They complain—after all most of them are still teenagers—but if we want them to mature into self-sufficient, healthy adults, we need to make sure they’re educated, have suitable life skills, and are able and willing to work in the adult world. We can make that happen. Thanks to your support, we’re able to break the cycles of poverty, homelessness, and crisis.

Arlene summed it up perfectly when she said, “I came to Daybreak for a place to sleep, and I left with a life.”

The next time someone asks you “What does Daybreak do?” you can tell them Daybreak is in the business of changing lives and creating futures.