YOUTH TODAY: New York Homeless Youth Feel Lonely, Stuck, Isolated

This story first ran in Youth Today here.

Here’s an excerpt:

NEW YORK — First he lost his job as a shift manager at McDonald’s. Then the movie theater, the bowling alley, all the places he spent time in began to close. Now he has to finish his senior year of high school online, without a real graduation.

He’s yet to hear back on whether he got into his college of choice, as admissions have slowed for many institutions. Like most people in New York City, Tyler Atkinson’s life was put on hold by COVID-19; like the rest of the city he is stuck in a limbo brought on by the pandemic.

But unlike most kids his age, Atkinson, 17, can’t quarantine inside his father’s house. He lives in a Diaspora Community Services youth shelter with over a dozen other boys and young adults. Since he can’t go to work anymore, Atkinson has a lot of time to fill, in a place where social distancing isn’t easy.

“Being inside the house all the time is kind of toxic,” he said. “It’s really boring, and being bored is not good.”

For runaway and homeless youth in the city, even those who are able to stay in shelters, the “PAUSE” in daily life ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo can feel less like a pause and more like a staggering halt. As providers are struggling to find the resources to keep staff and the young people they serve safe from the virus, teens and young people are dealing with disappointments like losing apartment applications, getting laid off by their first real employers and losing touch with the communities they’ve built.

A loss like that is devastating for these teens, said Elizabeth McCarthy, CEO of Sheltering Arms.

“They live stressful lives to begin with,” she said. “And through no fault of their own everything has come to a stop. These are kids who are so used to being disappointed.”

Efforts to reach Commissioner Bill Chong of the Department of Youth & Community Development and Speaker Cory Johnson of the New York City Council were unsuccessful.


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