“Homelessness among young people is a serious and complex issue. On any given night, the US National Runaway Switchboard estimates that there are approximately 1.3 million homeless, “throwaway,” and runaway youth living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, in shelters, transitional housing, with friends, or with strangers. The problem of homeless youth should be viewed as a social justice issue with its underlying roots based in all forms of oppression (including racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ageism), victimization, poverty and limited access to needed and necessary resources.” Janet Anderson Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs
Runaway and homeless youth agencies and domestic violence victims’ services providers share a mutual goal: enhancing the safety and healing of young people living situations marked by violence and abuse. Recognizing and understanding the intersection of runaway and homeless youth and intimate partner violence (including dating, domestic and sexual violence) is critical to creating meaningful services and effective intervention and prevention strategies for both homelessness and relationship abuse, and in creating partnerships between the programs working with youth at risk.
Why is this important?
Witnessing the ongoing abuse of a parent or experiencing child abuse, threats, or actual physical and sexual abuse are all too often the cause of youth running away or being forced from their homes. A life on the streets often exposes them to additional risks or victimization. What they have seen in an abusive home environment or experienced on the street is often repeated by the youth themselves in their own relationships. Because homeless youth have so little control over their lives, using violence in relationships may be a way of trying feel more in control. Runaway and homeless youth often have little or no support systems and those being abused in a relationship may find it more difficult to leave their abusive partner if they have no one to help them understand what is happening and the options available to them.
Who is the Toolkit for?
This Toolkit was developed by and for advocates in the runaway and homeless youth (RHY) and domestic and sexual assault (DV/SA) fields to help programs better address relationship violence with runaway and homeless youth. The Toolkit organizes information, resources, tips and tools drawn from the wealth of information gathered when the two service systems were convened through local collaborative projects funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The FYSB Initiative, which brought together domestic violence programs and runaway and homeless youth agencies to address relationship violence among homeless, runaway, and street youth. In this Toolkit, DV/SA providers will find information designed to increase their understanding of runaway and homeless youth and the network of programs and services working with them and, conversely, RHY providers will find resources on intimate partner violence and the programs and networks that provide protections and support to victims of violence. An increased understanding and dialogue between these systems at the service level can result in improved services overall.
This Toolkit should be viewed as an ever-developing resource for the field. As additional information, tips, tools, best practices, curricula, or other materials are identified or developed, they will be added to the Toolkit. Please contact the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (800-537-2238 or nrcdvTA@nrcdv.org)) if you have ideas or materials that you feel would enhance the Toolkit and make it more useful to RHY and DV/SA programs working individually or in partnership.