A sound awakens you in the middle of the night. Your eyes fly open as your heartbeat quickens. You carefully turn over on the cold, wet, unforgiving ground, trying not to attract any attention in case someone is nearby. Just a few years ago your biggest nightmares showcased ghosts and dragons and monsters. Now, even though you’re still not old enough to get a driver’s license, your waking nightmares feature Hunger, and Danger and Theft of what little you have to call your own. But your worst, your constant companion, is loneliness, and a certainty that no one knows you’re out there, and no one cares. You don’t know where you’re going to sleep tomorrow or where your next meal will come from, but that insecurity is still better than what you ran away from.
This is the reality for far too many homeless youth. Last year in downtown SLC, the homeless youth resource center and street outreach program connected with Volunteers of America served 1,264 youth ages 15-22. These teens and young adults are homeless for a variety of reasons, but the top three are:
1. Abusive home situations from which they are running away
2. Untreated mental illness
3. Former foster care recipients who have turned 18 and are no longer supported by the state
My church youth group is doing a service project to collect donations for the center in my local area. I know you’ve probably got one near you, too. Far too many youth live without the comforts of home and the love of family. But they don’t have to be forgotten. A simple donation of five dollars can mean life changing transportation to and from a job interview. In kind donations are useful, too. And the center is always looking for families and organizations to serve a meal, or lead a yoga class or tutor, or give of their time in many other ways. I’m hoping that people will see and share this post and consider getting their own family, business, church or community group involved with a center near you. For more information, visit http://voa.org to find information about a center near you or http://www.voaut.org/Services/Homeless-Outreach–Housing-Programs/Homeless-Youth-Resource-Center for more information on the local SLC center. Their current wish list includes:
men’s boxers: size medium, large and x-large
reusuable grocery bags
I’ll be collecting donations until July 26th, if you know me in real life. If not, check out what you can do for your local center. Make Christmas in July happen for the homeless youth near you.
To hear from the youth in their own words visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CabZrcA_IZc&feature=player_embedded