As many of you know, several months ago I wrote a blog post about homelessness. In it, I shared a very personal and private view of the four years I spent as a homeless teen. (You can read that post here http://www.lovedawn.com/homelessness-has-a-face-and-its-mine/)
Within a day of its posting, it went viral and was eventually picked up 13 different news outlets. I was floored by the outpouring of support from the people who were deeply affected by it, and whose hearts had softened towards the people and issues that surround homelessness. I received thousands of messages, emails and comments asking, “How can we help?” It just further proves my firm belief that if given a chance to truly understand, people always rise. I. LOVE. HUMANS!
In an effort to truly be able to answer your question, “How can I help?”, I took to the streets. I’ve spent the last few months downtown where the action is, spending time and sharing space with homeless people, and the countless organizations who support them. I’ve met with civic leaders who are championing the cause. I’ve read a million studies and I’ve asked a million questions. Through that I’ve gotten the education of a life time. Homelessness is worldwide chronic problem, leaving no community untouched. Its population is diverse and the solutions are complex. Although it’s not fair to compare such immense hardship, there was one subgroup that stood in glaring contrast in vulnerability and resources. It was the youth.
So what did I learn? Well, here’s a start:
- Every year, more than 2 million kids will face some period of homelessness.
- Teen homelessness is skyrocketing. Salt Lake City’s homeless population more than doubled in 2017. San Diego saw a 39 percent jump in homeless youth over the past year. In Atlanta, the number of homeless youth in 2016 was estimated to be nearly triple that of previous years. After a concerted effort to count homeless young people, Seattle’s King County saw its numbers jump more than 700 percent between 2016 and 2017. The number of homeless, unaccompanied public school students increased one-fifth between 2012 and 2015.
- 57% of homeless kids spend at least one day every month without food.
- According to a study of youth in shelters, nearly 50% reported intense conflict or physical harm by a family member as a major contributing factor to their homelessness.
- 50% of adolescents aging out of foster care and juvenile justice systems will be homeless within six months because they are unprepared to live independently and have limited education and no social support.
- A study done by Penn State and Layola University revealed some very startling statistics. 91% of youth reported being propositioned for sex or forced labor in exchange for getting their basic needs met (food, shelter) within 24 hours of being homeless. 95% of sex trafficked youth report a history of maltreatment, with 49% being sexually abused.
- Almost 40% of the homeless in the United States are under 18.
- They need us.
Through this knowledge, “Closer to Home” was born.
“Closer to Home” is a homeless teen initiative, whose mission is to create awareness about teen and youth homelessness. Our goal is simple. Rally communities to the cause through donation, mentorship, and service.
Out of the gates, we are setting the bar high. We are starting with an eight-week funding, mentorship and service campaign. Federal funding is limited for the teen population, so 70% of the budget has to come from private donations. It takes roughly 3.5 million dollars a year to fund teen homeless services, and that is just on the local level! Some of these organizations are losing their funding this summer, rendering these services and the youth they serve, very vulnerable.
So, for the next eight weeks I have rallied celebrities to bring their love and their talents downtown to serve the homeless teen community. Each week, they will get the privilege of serving a meal, spending time, and then holding a private event for the youth that reside there.
The service mini concert series provides a chance for stars to lead by example, beckoning communities throughout our nation follow suit.
These concert events provide the following:
- The gift of a normal teen experience. When food and shelter have become luxury items, concerts just aren’t something these kids get to do. During my years as a homeless teen, feeling “normal” was a precious commodity. To have people to laugh and spend time with, who aren’t looking down at you as a charity case but rather as an equal. An equal who just needs the time and space to “get there.” The goal is to give these kids a moment where they step away from their problems, and get lost in joy. It shows them that they aren’t invisible or forgotten. That we, as a community SEE THEM and are here to rally behind them. These kids are worth showing up for, and I believe that it goes a long way in healing their sense of self-worth.
- It casts a light on an underserved population – Each week a new video will be launched showcasing the event, telling the stories of these teens and organizations that support them. We’ll talk about the holes in the system and how we as a community can help. It grants me a chance to educate the public on some very vital programs who are showing an almost 80% success rate of getting these kids working, housed and well on their way to complete self-sufficiency. Most importantly, we will be consistently rallying communities throughout the world to DONATE, MENTOR & SERVE these very deserving youth.
Together, I believe that we can bring these incredible youth Closer to Home.
***statistical references will be listed in future posts that dive deeper than this brief overview.