Homelessness among Millennials raises new concerns in communities of color. Factors that are connected to homelessness among this age group include financial challenges, high student loan debt, lack of access to and education of social service resources, and the delay in adapting to adult roles and responsibilities (Dreyer, 2018). The Millennial generation range between the age of 25 years to 40 years old – as they were born between the years of 1981 – 1996 (Dimmock, 2019). This generation opposes traditional professional goals, such as early career goals to enter the corporate workforce and a delay with traditional adulthood norms such as independent living, marriage, and homeownership (Couch, 2014). Being the highest collegiate educated demographic, Millennials also have high financial debt post-college impacting financial wellness (Couch, 2014). All of these factors contribute to rates of homelessness and an increased need for social services.
Homelessness impacts anyone from any walk of life. While the stereotype includes mental illness, drug addiction as well as increased unemployment rates, the homeless Millennial generation enter shelter for reasons including seeking the resources of shelter services and declaring independence. Millennials are utilizing the shelter and shelter services to declare their independence as this provides a place to have free continued support that includes case management, temporary housing as well as public assistance, food stamps, and housing vouchers. African Americans who represent 13% of the general population account for 39% of people experiencing homelessness (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2021). More than 50% of homeless families with children are people of color (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2021). This imbalance has not improved over time (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2021). This impacts communities of color as BIPOC millennials more often find themselves dependent on a system designed to provide temporary assistance. Housing vouchers, while they are a valuable resource do not match the cost of living, therefore, increasing the risk of recidivism. Individuals and families enter the shelter system and in some cases use the system as a generational hand-me-down whereby when exiting shelter on section 8 or into public housing, families may pass knowledge of the housing option down through generations providing some level of security for future generations. This is often seen with children who grew up in the foster care or shelter systems.
"African Americans who represent 13% of the general population account for 39% of people experiencing homelessness (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2021). More than 50% of homeless families with children are people of color (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2021). This imbalance has not improved over time (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2021)."
The shelter system does provide services that are designed to seek and accept first suitable housing but they do not provide after-care assistance. Those who enter shelter have other barriers that are limited before coming to shelter – such as budgeting, income, finding employment. When a person exits shelter they have to work to maintain independence through community resources, however, those resources are limited. The shelter system uses the Housing First model – meaning that their primary goal is to focus on housing the family. They are not necessarily focused on other daily living needs or functions. For example, shelter staff may not address trauma or psychological/emotional well being, promote homeownership or provide education on becoming a homeowner focusing most on room sharing, apartments, supportive housing, and public housing. This leaves a huge void in the success of those that seek shelter, especially BIPOC.
"Within communities of color, we must work to educate at-risk individuals and families on resources, available funding, aftercare services as well as promote homeownership and financial wellness."
In the absence of large-scale reform that supports individual and family financial health and overall wellbeing, homelessness will remain. However, there are ways to educate, equip and promote success for those who experience homelessness. Within communities of color, we must work to educate at-risk individuals and families on resources, available funding, aftercare services as well as promote homeownership and financial wellness. Maya Angelou once said, “do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.” This mantra should be applied to how we engage within our communities. Our focus should include community growth via generational knowledge and wealth.
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Couch, R. (2014, July 15). Millennials may be next generation facing devastating homelessness, research suggests. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/15/ millennial-homelessness_n_5586054.html
Dimock, M. (2019, January 17). Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins [News brief]. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/01/17/where-millennials-end-and- generation-z-begins/
Dittmeier, K., Thompson, S. H., Kroger, E., & Phillips, N. (2018). Perceptions of homelessness: Do generational age groups and gender matter? College Student Journal, 52, 441–451. Retrieved from https://www.projectinnovation.com/college-student-journal.html
Dreyer, B. P. (2018). A shelter is not a home: The crisis of family homelessness in the United States. Pediatrics, 152(5), e20182695. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds .2018-2695
Essid, J. (2015, October 13). Coming of age: The real millennial crisis is poverty and homelessness. Retrieved from https://www.styleweekly.com/richmond /coming-of-age-the-real-millenial-crisis-is-poverty-and-homelessness /Content?oid=2249931
“Homelessness and Racial Disparities.” National Alliance to End Homelessness, 1 Apr. 2021, endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/what-causes-homelessness/inequality/.
About the Contributor
Dr. Xellex Z. Rivera is a native of the Bronx, New York, and a graduate of Manhattan College, Riverdale, NY, with a double Masters Degree in Counseling and Mental Health Counseling. A proud HBCU graduate, Xellex attended Livingstone College, Salisbury, NC with a major in Liberal Arts; English. In 2019, she was conferred her third Master’s Degree from Walden University in Philosophy. With a passion to help people realize and chase their potential, Xellex currently works at a Homeless Shelter Programs in New York City. In 2020, Xellex completed her doctoral work at Walden University with a concentration in Social Policy Analysis & Plan. Featured in Forbes Women and on Bronx Network, her dissertation, “Experiences of Long-Term Stay Among Homeless Millennials in New York City Shelters”, explored the experiences of long-term-stay millennials, 25 to 34 years to the age, residing in single adult NYC shelters to understand how they explain and interpret their extended stays.