Would it surprise you to know there are over a million youth in the United States who are homeless? What about the fact 13 young people die EVERY DAY on our country’s streets? That is the same number of students who died during the shooting at Columbine High School. Every single day.
I learned these disturbing facts recently while attending the documentary “Lost in America,” created by California filmmaker Rotimi Rainmaker, to raise awareness about youth homelessness in America. Shown at Moviehouse & Eatery in Flower Mound, the viewing was sponsored by our own Journey to Dream and Kyle’s Place founder, Kim Hinkle.
It’s hard to put my head around the idea that some kids don’t have options when it comes to living at home; a parent’s death, financial upheaval, sometimes sexual or physical or mental abuse by the people who brought them into the world requires adolescents to be forced to leave home for their own sanity and survival. But, there is no question the streets are not any place to grow up.
“Every kid on the street has one thing in common and that is rejection. There are 1 of 3 reasons for their being on the street (1) home doesn’t exist anymore, (2) home isn’t a safe place anymore, or (3) home doesn’t want them anymore.” Rotimi Rainmaker, Lost in America
With roughly a million homeless kids and only 4,000 beds available for youth in the country, the majority find themselves in precarious situations each night as the sun goes down. They understand the rules of the street when it comes to someone who offers them drugs; they understand if they don’t find some kind of protection (human or otherwise) the chances of their being physically or sexually victimized increases substantially.
In our suburban bubble we don’t spend much time thinking about this problem, because we don’t drive by the corner of 1171 and 2499 and see kids aimlessly hanging out with cardboard signs in their hands, but this doesn’t mean we can or should close our eyes to what is truly a tragedy in our country. The homeless youth of today will be the homeless adults of tomorrow…if they live that long. In the process, without funding and help to find consistent food/shelter/clothing/healthcare/education and/or training, these kids will likely look for their basic needs, love, and acceptance wherever they can find it, along the way bringing more children into an already overwhelmingly muddy picture.
So, what can we do? First, get involved by learning about the problem, go to www.lostinamericafilm.com and watch the trailer, then sign up to get updates on the legislative actions or the movement the film is creating.
Second, in our own community we have a homeless youth shelter nearing grand opening that needs many hands as well as financial donations to accomplish the goal of housing area homeless youth, go to www.journeytodream.com to learn more about how you can help locally.
In addition, question local and state representatives about what’s being done about the homeless youth problem.
And finally, most importantly, if you encounter a homeless young person, take a moment to look them in the eye and let them know they matter. If you are so inclined, ask if you could pray over them, or offer them some food if that’s nearby. These kids have been rejected at home for whatever reason and when society continues to look away, or doesn’t recognize them as human beings with worth, they will continue down the path of wondering why they are even here.
Kim Muench is a married mother of five children living in Flower Mound. A certified parenting coach, her passion lies in supporting and encouraging parents of adolescents. To read more of her work, or to learn about her parenting program, go to www.realifeparentguide.com.