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7 Things to Know About Undocumented Homeless Youth

About a month ago, Haven received a call to take in a 17-year-old male that was homeless.


Not unusual, but what was different was how he came to Haven in the first place.



He was an unaccompanied minor from Mexico that had crossed the border. He somehow was able to hitch a ride all the way to New York City. By the time he arrived and realize he had no support group, and nowhere to go, so he wandered around Newark Penn Station in order to stay safe. Eventually, he took a job at a construction site so he hopefully gets back home. Unfortunately, after a few days on the job, he fell and severely broke his arm. You may be wondering if is this a common occurrence for undocumented homeless teens (UC's). In order to answer some of these questions, I turned to Lina Caswell, Youth Services Associate Director of Church World Service, and Priscilla Monico Marin, Executive Director of NJ Consortium for Immigrant Children.

  1. An unaccompanied minor is a foreign-born child under the age of 18 and without legal status in the United States, at the time of their identification by immigration officials, are not in the care and custody of their parent or legal guardian.

  2. In order to receive services UC are apprehended by a federal agency (usually the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), then transferred to the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) while awaiting immigration proceedings.

  3. In 2022 the majority of UC's came from these four countries, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico accounting for 92% of all UC's combined.

  4. The six major reasons why children in those countries are leaving home are community violence, gang violence, abuse, neglect, abandonment or death of the primary caretaker, natural disasters, and lack of education and employment.

  5. In 2022, NJ is the 5th largest state with Unaccompanied Minors @6,648.

  6. Some UC's may travel over 1,000 miles on foot, by bus, car, or on top of a train known as La Bestia.

  7. A UC's release to an ORR-approved sponsor doesn't confer legal guardianship.

We are thankful for the support we received from CWS and NJCIC. To read more about the services they offer, please visit their website.

Working with this 17-year-old young man to stabilize his life for his next journey has been a joyful learning experience that the staff at Haven will never forget. It's his story and other stories of runaway and homeless youth as the primary reason why we do this work. will never forget.


We are thankful for our Havenites and our Community Partners. Without your encouragement and support, we couldn't do this work and pour into these young people. If you love what you hear and want to be a part of the Havenite Family, please donate by clicking the button below. For more information, contact 201-344-6589.


Keith Dent - Executive Director




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