HONOLULU — The majority of homeless youth on the island of Oahu were born in Hawaii, and they first became homeless at age 14 on average, according to a new study.
About 77 percent of the homeless youths and young adults surveyed had been victims of emotional, physical or sexual abuse, and nearly half were first homeless with their families, according the Street Youth Study released Friday.
The study by Waikiki Health, Hale Kipa and the University of Hawaii’s Center of the Family surveyed 151 people ages 12-24. All the people surveyed were homeless or runaways living in Waikiki, downtown Honolulu or the Waianae Boat Harbor.
About 59 percent of the young homeless were males, and 56 percent were born on the islands. The study goes against the belief that most homeless people in Hawaii are coming from out of the state, said Ivette Rodriguez Stern, a junior specialist with the center.
“There’s always the perception that there’s an influx of homeless people moving to Hawaii,” Stern told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. “These are our kids.”
According to the study, 13 percent had experienced so-called survival sex, meaning sex was exchanged for money, food, drugs or a place to stay. Of this group, 65 percent reported they were forced into sexual acts.
Nearly 40 percent said they experienced physical violence while homeless, and more than half have attempted suicide, according to the study. More than 20 percent were from military families.
Youth homelessness is an issue that was not really examined until few years ago, said Kent Anderson, Waikiki Health’s chief high-risk services officer.
“It’s really been under the radar. We’re hoping that we, as a community, gain a much deeper understanding of what factors contribute to youth getting on the streets, what issues youth face and what can help get youth off of the streets,” Anderson said.