New Jersey's Homeless Youth - The Facts

State of Street Kids in New Jersey: Statistics Regarding New Jersey's At-Risk Youth and Stories from Those We Have Served

Poverty
• 12% of our state's 18-24 year-olds live in poverty
• Since 2002, the percentage of 18-24 year-olds living in poverty has increased by 10%

James' mother was dying of AIDS, and his father was in jail. He had two choices – steal food or go to bed hungry.

Foster Care
• The number of individuals aging out of foster care increased by 30% from 2001-2005
• 30% of the kids in our care have been in their state's foster care system and left with nowhere to turn on their 18th birthdays.

When his mother's addiction caused her to lose custody of him, Kenny spent seven years in foster care living in 19 different homes. When he was lucky, he was ignored; too often, he was abused. On his eighteenth birthday, the last foster home told him it was time to leave, and he was completely on his own.

Abuse and Neglect
• 70% of kids living on the streets report a history of physical or sexual abuse

Shania was abused by every man in her life – her father, her mother's boyfriends, her uncle, her neighbors. Her only way to stop it was to gain 80 pounds and keep completely to herself.

Addiction
• Nearly 84% of high school seniors report that they could easily obtain illegal drugs, and over 31% reported using marijuana in the last year.

After his father left home, Nicholas started using drugs to dull the pain. After years of escalating drug use, his mother felt powerless and kicked him out of the house.

Crime
• 18-24 year olds account for nearly one third of all arrests in our state.

Learning disabled but physically strong, Louis joined a gang to feel safe in his tough neighborhood. He stole cars, sold drugs and robbed people – carrying a gun wherever he went.

Mental Health
• The percentage of New Jersey adolescents experiencing mental health distress increased 143%.

Like his mom, Michael is severely bipolar. He was put into state care and bounced from home to home – no one could care for him. He came to Covenant House, wholly unable to function independently and on the verge of suicide.

Education
• One in eight 18-24 year olds in New Jersey is a high school drop-out.

While living on a friend's sofa after her mom abandoned her for a new boyfriend, Maya scored 1350 on her SATs. At the other end of the spectrum, Jamal graduated from high school – with the ability to read at the first-grade level.

Pregnancy/Parenting
• 47% of all births to unmarried women occur in the 18-24 age range.

When Amanda became pregnant during her second semester of college, her frustrated mother – and the baby's father – refused to have any more contact with her. All alone, she dropped out of school and lost her housing.

Medical Care
• 16% of all 18-24 year olds report are uninsured.

Tyrell suffered from debilitating headaches all his life but never received the medical attention he needed to diagnose the cause.