Young Adults Fill Shelter Beds

Jennifer Gauck
September 1, 1997

Shelter use by young adults in the Boston area is on the rise. In a survey of 10 shelters, roughly 1,900 beds, the Massachusetts Shelter Alliance (MSA) found that 205 of the beds were occupied by 18- to 21 -year-olds over a ,6-month period. (Of the 205, the MSA believes some were lying about their age and could have been as young as 15.)

Of the 735 beds at the Long Island shelter, up to 18 percent were occupied by youth under 25 — and in the last six months, 81 new kids under 21 have been served. In 1996 at the Pine Street women's shelter, 22 percent of those served were 18 to 25.

"I don't want to knock the adult shelters," said Genny Price, The Bridge's clinical director. "But the kids are so comfortable in them. They can hang out and get three meals a day In the winter in some of the shelters they'll play Bingo for cigarettes — there's nothing to motivate a kid to want to get beyond that."

Price also points out that the increasing use of shelters has "let a lot of other systems off the hook." The Massachusetts Department of Social Services can now discharge kids they serve through foster care or other programs into a shelter as soon as they turn 18. While the shelters don't want young people in their facilities for long, some have been forced in recent court cases to take in 19- and 20-year-olds.

But Eric Butler of the Pine Street Shelter remains nonchalant about the so-called "youth crisis" among adult shelters.

"We check Ids," he said, "and if youth are under 18, we do not accept them." When youth cannot or will not produce an ID and there is no other way to check age, workers must rely upon their own judgment as to who's legal and who's not.

"If they appear to be younger than 18, we refer them to the Bridge," Butler explains. "Anyone 18 to 21 is also referred [to the Bridge] so they can be with other youth. But if they don't want to go, they can stay at Pine Street, as long as they are over 18."


Barbara Whelan

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

47 West St.

Boston, MA 02 111

(617) 367-6447

Liz Burkard

Massachusetts Shelter Alliance

5 park St.

Boston, MA 02108

(617) 367-6447

Eric Butler

Pine Street Shelter

444 Harrison St.

Boston, MA 02118

(617) 482-4944

Gauck, Jennifer. "Young Adults Fill Shelter Beds." Youth Today, Sept/Oct 1997, p. 25.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.





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