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Survey Finds Unhoused Youth Are Sheltering In Unsafe Conditions


A recent survey conducted by unhoused service providers in Lane County found most unhoused youth have been sheltering in unsafe conditions. It estimates more than 75 youth are in need of help.

Megan Shultz with 15th Night says safety was a recurring theme in the survey that includes the response of 35 unhoused youth. Close to 74% of youth surveyed reported sheltering in unsafe locations within the past six months. Shultz says a lot of them said they were staying with a friend, but that wasn’t the whole story.

“When we dug a little deeper, what we found is that they are staying with really predatory adults, so they’re staying in drug houses and with really sketchy people,” she said.

The survey found 34% of unhoused youth had self-reported chronic illness, and 39% had previously been in foster care. And, 60% of youth fell under the age of 18.

Also asked in the survey was what resources unhoused youth need. In addition to a safe place to stay, youth also said they needed food and clothing. Using data collected from the survey, providers were able to create a youth informed  proposal to open a shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[The youth’s] safety is at risk,” Shultz says, “We can’t talk about this for three weeks, we need to figure  out a way to get it open ASAP." She adds unsheltered youth are also a public health concern since they could unknowingly transmit the virus.

15th Night, along with other unhoused service providers, have been in talks with local officials, school districts, and advocates to find solutions. The proposal suggests opening First United Methodist Church in Eugene as a low-barrier shelter for youth, ages 11 to 21. The church serves as the youth site when St. Vincent de Paul's Egan Warming Centers activate. 

“The sooner we can get [the shelter] open, the more we can create some safety around health for both them and the community,” she said.

According to the proposal, the cost to open the shelter for 90 days is $150,000 with St. Vincent de Paul acting as the primary service provider. Shultz says partnerships with the public sector, and private donations could help speed up the process. 

“Private dollars create a path to get [the shelter] open in the quickest possible way, as well as leveraging other types of resources with the government,” she said. St. Vincent de Paul is accepting donations for the site.

© 2020 KLCC

Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.