Make A Difference During National Homeless Youth Awareness Month

Make A Difference During National Homeless Youth Awareness Month

By: Amanda Fox

Were you aware that each year it is estimated that more than 1.6 million children in the US are homeless? Being a kid is tough enough, but homeless youth are ripped from everything they know. School, friends, routine and a sense of safety are just the tip of the iceberg. They are exposed to harsh realities of life in manner that is often traumatic. Far too often, they are exposed to real physical dangers they are ill-equipped to handle. The problem is not going away. The homeless youth epidemic is growing.

We know that beyond the issues cited above, homeless youth drop out of school at an increased rate. They fall victim to substance abuse in not only increased numbers, but younger than there counterparts at home – statistically speaking. We also know these homeless children face issues related to PTSD, depression, impulsivity, becoming underage parents and the very real significantly increased possibility of becoming trafficked and exploited.

Homeless Teenage Boy

Please do not assume that all of these homeless children are runaways that are fleeing an abusive home or took off for reasons only they fully know. More and more, homeless youth are a segment of homeless families that are now on the streets and in the shelters across America in record numbers. Regardless, they are at risk of all the same turmoil, trauma, and potential for harm as those who ran away. Some will make it off the streets and some won’t. Some will go on to overcome the disadvantage and succeed in life and some will become statistics in the negative columns: Trafficked, incarcerated, chronically homeless, missing and saddest of all – Dead.

It would be wonderful if we could say we had a plan that got all the kids off the streets and back in loving homes. The truth is, we don’t. No matter how much we wish we did, the challenges to making that a reality are seemingly insurmountable. While some would covet the opportunity, a certain percentage of homeless youth would shun it, preferring instead a life on the streets. For others, more specialized forms of care would be needed. While we don’t have the answers for all of this, there is still something we can, and should, do.

We can support the programs that support the homeless youth of America. Sometimes, having a safe space to sit down and rest and not feel as if you have to look over each shoulder and to the sides and dead ahead every second of every day is a gift beyond comprehension for these children. We take for granted that simple daily tasks are not always so simple for the homeless – especially children on their own most vulnerable to predators. A place to shower, change and possibly clean clothes, eat in peace and even do something so basic as use a restroom indoors without fear of being run out of an establishment by a security guard or employee is seen as a luxury.

It is in these safe spaces where these young people may begin to find the clarity of mind to start making the conscious decision to turn a corner for the better in their lives. It is often the exact place where they can go to find the help to do that as well. While some jaded individuals may say these youth drop in centers do nothing more than enable a life on the streets, success stories of youth that pulled themselves up and back on the right path due to the help of said facilities are abundant.

Homeless Youth Under A Bridge

This year during National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, we here at Spicie have chosen S.P.Y. (Safe Place for Youth) in Venice Beach, CA,  as an organization we would like to highlight. With some 15,000 homeless youth in the Los Angeles area each night, an estimated 12,000 that go unsheltered, the need for assistance has never been greater. The objectives of the all-volunteer staff at S.P.Y. are as follows:

    1. Provide a safe haven for homeless youth and offer comprehensive services with low barriers for entry.
    1. Find and stabilize youth before risks overwhelm them, and continue to provide individualized case management.
    1. Provide a supportive connection to a responsible adult, offer caring relationships, and teach important life skills.
    1. Create public awareness, build coalitions, improve rights, and impact policy for youth in need.

While we would love it if you were in the area and could provide some form of hands on assistance, we realize that is not an option for everyone. If you would like to financially support S.P.Y., their contact information along with links to their website are included below as well as to a fund raising initiative for their program. If you want to help, but cannot afford a donation to either, please take a few seconds to share this amongst your friends on your social networks or via email. Of course, getting involved in your own local area youth homelessness initiatives is always encouraged as well.

Please, do whatever you can to help these children. We cannot end homelessness or runaways, but we can make sure that when such things occur, there is support to help them back up on their feet so that they don’t become a negative statistic.

S.P.Y. On Facebook
Black Iron Kisses Fundraiser For S.P.Y

Thank you for your time and any assistance you provide to this or any other homeless youth program.

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