When you think of the word “homeless”, you don’t typically think of 17 year olds. You think of old, weathered, beaten down people who choose not to do anything with themselves. Maybe some of those have fallen to addiction or abuse and just can’t get ahead. Meet Anthony, Seth, and Asomo. These young men were previously incarcerated in Travis County and once released, they were homeless. Over the last two months, they’ve been working with Nineveh through the Jail2Jobs work program to get off the streets.
Youth coming out of the juvenile justice system are often times not offered a transition plan before being released, so this can lead to homelessness. This is especially true if these youth are not able to return to the home they lived in prior to the justice system involvement, due to their parent or guardian refuse to accept parental responsibility or if there was abuse at their previous home. Having a juvenile or criminal record can make finding a job and obtaining housing extremely difficult. A criminal history is a barrier to both public and private employment in Texas, and can act as a bar to professional licensing, which is needed for more than 150 occupations. Depending on the conviction, a criminal record can also mean the loss of federal benefits.
People ask, “why can’t they just go to shelters?” Here’s why: (1) adult shelters are typically full and rather scary places, (2) there are more women/children only shelters. Some transitional living spaces offer employment to pay for their housing, but then most of their pay covers the rent and there is no way for them to get ahead and save to get out on their own.
Homelessness of our youth is a problem that we are just starting to uncover and address. We are tackling employment through our Jail2Jobs work program and once graduated, they are connected to local business partners in the community for full time employment. We are also looking into housing partners to work with us in this endeavor.
- Anthony is working on obtaining proper employment documentation in order to get a job and was given a place to live. Through a simple act of kindness of carrying someone’s bags for them, Anthony was offered a couch and very nice mattress.
- Seth is now living in an apartment, working with Nineveh and saved up enough to buy his own car, and has graduated the Jail2Jobs program.
- Asomo is now working and found a short term placement program which gives him a place to live.
The staff at Nineveh Ministries are working on broader treatment plans for this epidemic.