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Foreword

The statistics, sobering as they are, only tell part of the story. On any given day in North Carolina,

  • In North Carolina schools, nearly 35,000 students are estimated to be experiencing some form of homelessness
  • Close to 500 unaccompanied young adults between ages 18-24
  • Over 800 families experience homelessness

These numbers are undoubtedly an underestimate—compiling this information requires that individuals facing housing insecurity have encounters with the agencies and entities that track the statistics. Homelessness takes many shapes—and it impacts those on the brink of homelessness as well. Behind each number is a human. A child being told to leave by their parent. A person with a disability. A youth being mistreated due to their gender identity. A black high schooler pushed out of school by disciplinary practices that disproportionately impact students of color. Behind each number is a story. A need. And, a way forward.  

Where do you even begin when you are experiencing housing insecurity? Need piles on urgent need, intertwined with unmet needs just below the surface. Where can I stay? Can I continue to go to my school? How do I protect myself if I am being abused? What if I get in trouble? How do I find medical help? Although we live in a world where information is more readily accessible than ever before, finding reliable, pertinent, all-encompassing information is challenging.

That is the inspiration for the Homeless Youth Handbook - North Carolina, a comprehensive state-specific resource that answers hundreds of questions about rights and resources. This easily searchable guide addresses the reality that youth, especially youth in vulnerable situations, encounter complicated, overlapping issues. The Handbook is directed at youth and young adults, but it is an invaluable resource for those working with youth in any capacity.

The Homeless Youth Handbook is the culmination of the work of scores of volunteers working over many months during a time when a pandemic upended an already complex world. Contributors donated over 1,000 hours of pro bono hours to create this impactful resource with the goal of changing the trajectory of youth in crisis to a path of hope, safety, and success. The Handbook is the collaborative work product of Legal Aid of North Carolina, Bank of America, and Baker McKenzie.

Legal Aid of North Carolina is a statewide, nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and to remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute our firm’s expertise in a wide range of civil legal matters and to further live into our commitment to serving clients in a holistic manner, in recognition that legal resolutions are often only one component of the path to justice, stability and safety.

Baker McKenzie is a global law firm with an equally robust pro bono practice helping underserved populations across the world. Baker McKenzie is a known advocate and thought-leader for children's rights both nationally and globally. Baker launched the Homeless Youth Handbook resource in 2013 and has continued to partner with non-profits and corporations focused on youth who are experiencing homelessness to create this resource around the country.

We are deeply indebted to the many people who contributed their expertise to the development of the Homeless Youth Handbook. We also extend our gratitude to everyone on the front lines serving vulnerable youth around North Carolina. Through our collective efforts we can save lives and help youth thrive.

 

George R. Hausen, Jr.
Executive Director
Legal Aid of North Carolina

Colin Murray
CEO, North America
Baker McKenzie