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Heartbreak, homelessness a harsh reality for D.C. millennials

Published: Thursday, Dec. 12 2013 3:20 p.m. MST

For many millennials, homelessness isn't an unlikely future due to a difficult job market and sinking student loan debt.

Mike Terry, Deseret News

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D.C. General is the largest shelter in Washington, D.C., home to more than 600 children and a slew of millennial — up and coming 20-somethings — trying to gain control of their future.

And its walls are filled with stories.

"Canisha Burke, 21, doesn’t like to think of herself as homeless. Her bob and shaggy bangs are trendy. She wears a bright blue sweater, a black pencil skirt, tights and boots. She’s always on her way to church. She shook my hand so forcefully it’s difficult to believe that when she entered D.C. General in October 2012, she had a tough time falling asleep," an article in Salon reported.

Burke is a single mother of three who hasn't been able to find a steady job since graduating from high school in 2010. Burke is certified as a home health aide.

Right now, Burke's boys think the shelter is their permanent home. Burke tries to reassure them for the future.

“This is just a temporary place that we stay at. I tell them once we get to where we want to be, that is when I’ll let (them) know, this is home," she told Salon.

According to the Annual Homelessness Assessment from November 2012, 24 percent of the residents in homeless shelters across the nation are millennials between the ages of 18 and 30.

The shelter, down the street from the morgue and nestled between a jail and a detox clinic, has a 288-room capacity.

According to an article in Salon, "More than 215 are filled with residents between the ages of 18 and 30."

Some residents seek out the shelter because of the overwhelming debt from student loans, according to the article.

According to the Guardian, "The class of 2012 has the highest student loan burden of any graduating college class in history, continuing a five-year trend of rising debt loads on millennials just coming out of school."

In 2012, the average student loan debt was $29,400, up from 2011's average of $26,600, according to the Project on Student Debt.

Email: ebuchanan@deseretnews.com, Twitter: emmiliewhitlock

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