A stark new report publicized on Tuesday has found that homelessness among teenagers and young adults could be much more widespread in Santa Clara County than previously thought.
The new study by the Santa Clara-based Bill Wilson Center found that 44 percent of community college students in the South Bay have either been homeless recently or know a peer who is homeless. About 17 percent of high-school students also fit this description, according to the report.
Many of these students don't fit the typical conception of homelessness, such as living on the streets or in shelters. The Bill Wilson Center report made a concerted effort to count students who had unstable housing, such as "couch-surfing" at a friend or relative's home. Standard surveys used by schools and many government agencies to count homeless youth often don't include those who are living tenuously in someone else's home.
"In Santa Clara County we have many youth who are homeless, and there's no obvious clue that they're homeless," said Chris McManus, Bill Wilson Center spokesman. "This is potentially a lost generation."
The report underscores other recent findings that point to a growing underclass of youth struggling to find stable housing. Earlier this year, a countywide "Point in Time" count of people living on the street found a 175 percent increase in homeless youth over the last two years. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that Santa Clara County had among the nation's highest counts of chronicly homeless youth.
The surge in homeless young people dovetails with the regional housing crisis. Santa Clara County for years has been among the priciest housing markets in the nation, and the Bill Wilson Center study points to this as a major contributing factor for families and individuals to "double up" and squeeze into a single home.
The full report from the Bill Wilson Center can be read here.