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Highlights of the 2014 ELEM Annual Report
A 90% increase in the number of youth and young adults reporting financial difficulties and poverty – 5,197 youth and young adults reported financial difficulties in 2014 compared with 2,730 in 2013.
This year was the first time ELEM heard youth using the term “poverty” to describe their situation and their family’s financial situation. Poverty often leads to difficulties in all areas of life such as the breakdown of parental authority, social and educational difficulties, use of abusive substances and involvement in crime or violence. Many youth work long hours after school in order to help pay the family bills. Others drop out of school, preferring to help finance their family or fulfill parental demands. Tragically, the cycle of poverty then continues with youth failing to gain an academic education, a key step in economic advancement.
An increase in the number of incidents of violence caused by interaction on the internet and social networks.
Among the youth receiving help from ELEM, 12,000 reported being affected by interactions on the internet or have used the internet as a means of abuse as compared with 10,000 last year, a rise of 20%. The abuse ranged from verbal insults and cyber-bullying to posting pornographic photography with pictures of private sexual acts. Some of the characteristics of online sexual offenders are similar to those of live sexual offenders.
There is a continued lack of support for troubled young adults over 18.
In 2014, 6,244 young adults ages over 18 turned to ELEM for help. Poverty, lack of family or social support and substance abuse were the most common issues. As these individuals are not serving in the army and legislation designed for younger people under 18 does not apply to them, they have difficulty finding assistance in gaining housing and employment.
Young adults who are homeless have difficulty finding suitable emergency shelters, since the majority of night shelters are designed for adults. In addition, admission to most of the shelters is conditional on abstinence from drugs or alcohol, a difficult hurdle, as the majority of the homeless young adults living on the streets are addicted.
A 30% increase in requests for help via the Y- ELEM website due to anxiety and depression resulting from “Operation Protective Edge”.
The rise in the number of referrals involving anxiety and depression began at the end of September, a month after “Operation Protective Edge,” mainly from youth in the center and south of the country. Y-ELEM professionals attribute the increase to emotional trauma due to prolonged periods spent in areas affected by Gaza rocket fire. Other related symptoms included a decrease in the ability to function socially and educationally, despair, sleep disorders and lack of appetite.
Significant expansion of the activities with at-risk youth in the Bedouin sector.
Five new centers serving Bedouin youth were added this year. Primary issues for the community included poverty; a lack of basic infrastructure, such as running water, electricity, roads and appropriate social services. These major challenges drive youth to drop out from educational programs and lead to unemployment, violent behavior and criminal activities. The situation of the girls is particularly problematic, as they are often not allowed by their families to continue their education past elementary school and do not seek employment, a key component for financial success. In addition, Bedouin youth deal with issues associated with being part of a minority group, identity and their relationship with Israel and living within a traditional society while being exposed to and enticed by modernity.