youth homelessness

Cutting Through the Noise: Advocating for our Kids during the Presidential Election

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

As a political junkie, I love presidential election years. I especially love years like this: where a few months ago there was no incumbent and wide-open races on both sides (depending on who you ask). These campaign cycles can also be incredibly frustrating. Candidates visit small towns where they would never otherwise set foot, eat state fair food, rub elbows with locals, and mug for photos. It all feels inauthentic. Fake. How can a long-serving U.S. senator really speak on behalf of working families? How can a billionaire relate to middle class workers? How can privileged white men and women relate to the plights of runaway youth? How can powerful people understand what it’s like to be homeless when they have never had to worry whether they will have a place to sleep, or a hot meal and shower waiting for them in the morning?

This is where we come in. As advocates, youth workers, execs leading youth and family-serving agencies, it’s up to us to make sure the needs of these young people and families are heard. We need to beat the drum to make sure affordable housing, funds for runaway and homeless youth programs, and affordable health care for young people are priorities for elected leaders at all levels of government – from city council to the President of the United States.

Here are some ideas for getting involved this election year:

  1. Host elected officials at your organization or shelter. Show them around and explain how you operate, what you need, and what it means to the young people you serve. This could include your city officials, state senators and representations, or US congress members. If you are in an early caucus or primary state, you may even be able to get a presidential candidate (see above comments).
  2. Write Letters to the Editor of your local papers. Highlight your programs and how proposed legislative changes (at all levels of government), will impact your agencies and the youth you service, for the better or worse.
  3. Communicate with your elected officials. Make phone calls. Email them. National officials track the number of calls and emails they receive on specific issues. State officials often do the same. It may not seems like they are listening, they are tracking!
  4. Encourage your staff to vote. Encourage young people to vote. Take young people to the primaries or election in November. Help them register. It’s their right.

However you get involved, don’t pass up this opportunity to make your voice heard and advocate on behalf of the young people we serve.

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President Obama’s FY 2017 Budget Released

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

President Obama released his 2017 budget proposal last week. It includes some bright spots in funding for runaway and homeless youth programs and supports for child welfare programs. This is just a proposal though, and serves as a blueprint Congress will use to build its own budget.

Here are some highlights from the proposal:

  • $6 million increase for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, including the Basic Center, Street Outreach, and Transitional Living Programs.
  • $2 million to conduct a prevalence study of youth homelessness
  • $11 Billion to address family homelessness through creating of housing vouchers and rapid re-housing assistance
  • $85 million for the education of homeless youth
  • Funds to support demonstration grants to help states implement the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014

For additional highlights of homeless programs in general, check out a summary from the National Alliance to End Homelessness: http://www.endhomelessness.org/page/-/files/FY%202017%20Budget%20Rundown.pdf

For additional information about programs and funding related specifically to children and young people, check out First Focus’s highlights: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/docs/NSPN/big-investments-in-kids-in-the-presidents-budget.pdf

Avoiding Sparks: On the Road to Independence

By: April Carthorn, RHYTTAC General Specialist, National Safe Place Network

Homelessness is not a choice. Too often a young person’s decision to leave home is the healthiest (and only) option available to them. Some have no choice as they are forced from their homes at the hands of their guardians. Many flee because of issues such as family conflict, sexual orientation, poverty, abuse and neglect, while others may become entangled in substance abuse, gangs, and addiction problems.

Once a young person is homeless, it is very difficult to transition out. Age restrictions prevent many youth from accessing housing / shelters thus making it hard for them to connect with services to help end their homelessness. Transitioning youth also face barriers when trying to get their own housing. Paying rent and bills is virtually impossible with a part-time minimum wage job and many landlords will not rent to youth. Therefore, many youth are forced to remain hidden or move to the streets.

Without proper housing, food, and support systems, the health of a youth experiencing homelessness is at risk. Homeless youth have higher rates of HIV and other STIs and face a greater risk for developing anxiety and depression as compared to housed youth. It is difficult to grow into a healthy adult when you’re unhealthy, poorly nourished, and stressed.

While this paints a bleak picture, we can prevent youth homelessness by making sure young people know where to turn when their home is not safe. Most youth at risk of being homeless leave difficult home situations or age out of foster care to find themselves without a safe sanctuary, something we all need and appreciate. Everyone likes to come home and close the door behind them and feel safe. Many at-risk youth and young adults do not have this opportunity.

While most youth are resilient and want to move forward, there are a number of barriers for someone who is unprepared to be independent. Most youth who have aged out of care or have had to leave home lack experience in independence and therefore need a helping hand up. Searching for safe accommodations can be complicated, stressful, and hopeless if the youth / young adult is suffering from mental health concerns such as depression, stress disorders, substance abuse, and a history of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

What You Can Do To Help Avoid the Sparks:

Many youth / young adults ages 18-24 tend to take increased risk to figure out which career, educational, and financial path they want to pursue. Being a supportive ally can help foster a positive transition into adulthood and provide young people a chance to explore opportunities, develop financial independence, and create healthy, lifelong relationships.

  • Empower youth to make decisions. Youth / young adults have often been left out of critical decisions made about their lives. It is important to allow the young person take charge of his or her own future while you listen, help guide, and support. During daily interactions, provide youth with frequent opportunities to make decisions and to learn from consequences, both positive and negative.
  • Communicate high expectations. Far too often, youth / young adults have heard more about their limitations than about what they can achieve. Send positive messages about future possibilities. Offer forward-looking comments into everyday conversation. For example, use phrases such as “when you go on to college…” or “when you start your own business…” as opposed to phrases like “if you go to college.”
  • Start early. Find ways to introduce important concepts to younger youth. For example, talk with a pre-teens about the value of education and saving for long-term goals.
  • Decrease control and increase youth responsibilities gradually. While allowing youth to make choices, be clear about boundaries. Involve youth in setting rules and establishing appropriate consequences related to their behavior. Allow young people to learn and practice adult life skills with your support.
  • Help to identify at least one reliable, caring adult in a young person’s life who can serve as a stable, ongoing connection and can provide support pre-and-post-transition into adulthood.
  • Encourage the development of positive peer support networks through participation in constructive group activities with others who share similar likes and experiences.
  • Be an effective coach who listens, advises, and provides youth / young adults with opportunities to learn and practice new skills.  Do not shoot down their ideas.
  • Advocate for youth rights as they relate to employment, housing, education, medical and mental health care, court proceedings, and social needs.
  • Remind young people of their responsibilities related to self commitment, citizenship, character, and fairness and generosity toward others.
  • Recognize successes and celebrate ALL achievements and milestones on the path to adulthood.

TXT 4 HELP Service for Youth in Crisis

This week, communities across the country are celebrating National Safe Place Week (#NSPWeek2015)! This nationally-recognized week honors the Safe Place program, which brings together businesses and volunteers to provide immediate help and safety for teens facing abuse, neglect, homelessness or other crisis situations. It’s also a time to show appreciation for the many businesses and volunteers that participate in the Safe Place program to support youth.

Today is TXT 4 HELP Tuesday during NSP Week! TXT 4 HELP is a 24/7 text-for-support service for youth in crisis. Check out this new video to learn more about TXT 4 HELP and to watch a real-life texting exchange take place.

To learn more about TXT 4 HELP, please visit: http://nationalsafeplace.org/text-4-help/

Why Safe Place Matters

At National Safe Place Network, we believe in the power of community and the incredible effect one community can have on a young person’s life. Safe Place is an outreach and prevention program for youth in need of immediate help and safety. Businesses and community organizations, such as libraries, youth service agencies, public transportation vehicles, YMCAs, grocery stores, and more, display the Safe Place sign – making help readily available for youth. Safe Place simply cannot operate successfully without community buy-in and support.

We are grateful to be able to share the following story with you, a story that exemplifies what it means to be a Safe Place community.

This month, QuikTrip (one of our incredible corporate and Safe Place site partners) received a message from a customer about an incredible experience she had at one of their stores in Phoenix. As she was leaving the store, a young man asked her for some money. When she asked what he needed it for, he told her his mother kicked him out of the house. This meant the young man had no place to go on Thanksgiving. She went back into the store and asked the clerk for a pen and paper. When she explained why she needed pen and paper, the clerk’s face lit up and he said, “We have a special program just for this!” He told her about Safe Place and helped connect the young man to the licensed Safe Place agency.

Click here to read the entire story: http://www.marshstudios.com/QT-Register/december2014/safePlaceStory-dec2014.html

This is just one of many stories highlighting the invaluable impact a program like Safe Place has on the life of a youth. Too often we hear stories about youth who are abused, neglected, homeless, or who have run away from home. No matter the reason, young people have a safer alternative to a life on the streets or a life without stable housing. Safe Place provides connection to helpful and supportive resources when youth need it most.

Just yesterday, an article was posted on HuffingtonPost.com shinning a light one of America’s most vulnerable populations: “Unnaccompanied and Unnoticed: Saving our Homeless Youth” by Eric Rice, PhD, Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work. Rice cites the recent publication of “America’s Youngest Outcasts” by the National Center on Family Homelessness which reports 2.5 million homeless children under the age of 18.

Rice states, “These youth are largely invisible walking right past most of us — even me. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need our help. Most of these young people have survived family rejection, abuse and neglect. They need our compassion, our help and our attention. We need to provide more safe housing for these youth and get them support services, so they can grow into adults who live up to their full potential.”

This is why Safe Place matters. We need to continue to provide the connection to safety and supportive services for youth in need. Do you live in a Safe Place community?

Learn more about Safe Place and how you can get involved at www.nationalsafeplace.org.

Safe Place logo

Miley Cyrus Advocates for Homeless Youth

Miley Cyrus is a household name. She’s a pop superstar who has made a living performing on television shows and on stage in front of large crowds. She’s had many experiences in her young life but perhaps one of the most eye-opening experiences she’s had thus far was during a recent visit to My Friend’s Place, a homeless youth shelter in Los Angeles.

Cyrus is now lending her voice to advocate on behalf of homeless youth in America. During the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night, Cyrus won the award for Video of the Year. Instead of accepting the trophy herself, Cyrus sent a young man named Jesse to accept the award and raise awareness for homeless youth.

He read his statements from note cards:

“My name is Jesse and I am accepting this award on behalf of the 1.6 million runaways and homeless youth in the United States who are starving, lost and scared for their lives right now. I know this because I am one of these people. I survived in shelters all over the city. I’ve cleaned your hotel rooms, I’ve been an extra in your movies, I’ve been an extra in your life. Though I may have been invisible to you on the streets, I have a lot of the same dreams that brought many of you here tonight.”

His speech called attention to the large and growing population of homeless young people in Los Angeles.

“The music industry will make over $7 billion this year, and outside these doors are 54,000 human beings who have no place to call home. If you want to make a powerful change in the world right now, please join us and go to Miley’s Facebook page. A dream you dream alone is only a dream, but a dream you dream together is reality.”

Within the last day, news outlets have reported that Jesse has a police record and an open warrant out for his arrest. It’s important to remain focused on the issue, which is runaway and homeless youth in this country. Regardless of Jesse’s story, youth homelessness is a very real issue and each young person’s experience looks different. Kids may run away from home or become homeless for any number of reasons – physical and sexual abuse, neglect, family conflict, dating violence, bullying, and more. Homeless youth are not bad kids. Unfortunately for most, they’ve experienced loss, violence, trauma and/or other hardships that have left them feeling alone, scared, and lost. Because of this, youth may turn to couch surfing or living on the streets because they feel these are better options than their current situations. It’s up to all of us as individuals and communities to support young people in need. Youth need to know they are valued and have access to safe and supportive resources when dealing with a difficult situation.

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, which funds programs that help prevent the exploitation of youth on the streets and support reconnection to their families, schools, employment, and housing options. While there is still much work to be done in order to end youth homelessness, it’s important to celebrate the successes and advancements of the past 40 years.

To learn more about runaway and homeless youth and how you can support youth in need, please visit any of the following websites:

National Safe Place Network – www.nspnetwork.org

Safe Place – www.nationalsafeplace.org

National Runaway Safeline – www.1800runaway.org

National Network for Youth – www.nn4youth.org

National Alliance to End Homelessness – http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/youth