Youth hits home with wish: ‘I just want my own bed’
I have had many opportunities to share with community members the plight of our homeless youth in the Valley. The last exchange happened with an individual that was very interested in knowing what existing services are available for homeless youth, and what do they really need next? I was excited to share that MY HOUSE ( Mat-Su Youth Housing) just received their non-profit status to pursue grants, receive donations, and hold fund raisers to establish a much needed housing program in the Valley for our homeless youth. I added that currently, the Valley does not have any kind of housing for those youth, unless they have a mental diagnosis, have been released from our juvenile justice system, or are in foster care. These homeless youth have been referred to as the ‘unmet niche.’ The fact is, our homeless youth, for whatever reasons have left home, or worse, are unaccompanied, having no parent or legal guardian in their lives, and have no roof over their heads to be safe. They do not have regular meals, adequate clothing, or a place or person to help coordinate and provide extended services for them. ( health, social, financial, or career planning.)
I believe many homeless youth are on the streets out of desperation to avoid home situations, such as the trauma of sexual abuse, especially for girls. Parents’ substance abuse, mental issues, or just plain abandonment are other reasons. The streets are, in their mind, a respite from that constant feeling of being helpless and hopeless.
Yet, in fact, the streets are no better, and in short, are a dead end. We know once on the streets there is a progression of distrust, and that will be followed eventually with disequilibrium from society. They separate themselves from the very people who are trying to help. It is very sad to see these youth become victims of the streets. Within a short period of time on the streets, things go from bad, worse, to incomprehensible demoralization. They become ‘mules’ carrying product, (drugs) for others, wheeling and dealing for themselves, and the most horrific, selling themselves for sex, and sex trafficking.
So, what do these youth really need? Do they need respect? Do we need to provide them with opportunities for self-respect, self-pride, achievement, or self-confidence? I believe it is much more basic than that. And that was driven home when I heard a homeless youth reply to the direct question, what do you need right now? He said, “ I just want my own bed! ” His voice was filled with desperation, not only for his own bed, but he sounded like he was exhausted from doing battle, the battle with street demons, and those lingering vapors still chasing him. He truly needed a place to lay his head, and just catch a break from his plight. I can not imagine that exhaustion from the hyper-vigilant behavior of constantly having to guard his belongings from getting jacked, and always looking for high, dry ground, food, and clothing.
He is one of many of our homeless youth, that are just trying to fulfill basic physical and security needs of safety, but trying to meet those needs on the streets. It is a trade off that does not have promising or positive solutions. The solution is providing our homeless youth an array of housing solutions from emergency dorm style housing, transitional, to group homes, and finally, affordable housing. We need host and safe homes to provide a safety net, and cool down, until possible family reunification can take place for the younger youth. Also, for the older youth, they need job training opportunities, resume‘ and financial literacy classes. But, most importantly, at any age, getting back into school and graduating with a high school diploma is imperative.
One of goals for MY HOUSE is to have a outreach center, and coordinate a variety of housing solutions and extended services for our homeless youth. We are kicking off this quest by sponsoring the ’50 States in 50 Days Tour’ with Kevin Montgomery. Kevin is a musician, with Nashville roots, who has partnered with the ‘Orange Duffle Bag Foundation.’ This Foundation seeks awareness for homeless youth and began with the story of the former Georgia Tech football player Sam Bracken. A book was launched describing Sam’s journey from poverty and homelessness to a full ride scholarship, awards as a football player and his college education. Echo Garret, Kevin’s sister, assisted in bringing to life Sam Bracken’s story in this book. The evening with Kevin will be at the Valley Cinema Theatre, August 24th at 6:00 p.m.
You can visit the MY HOUSE website @ www.myhousematsu.org outlining our vision for homeless youth, articles about past events, the tour with Kevin and the ‘Orange Duffle Bag Foundation.’ You can buy tickets online, or at the door. All are welcome, and all ages. Please join us as we continue our quest to give a hand up to our homeless youth in the Valley.
Michelle Overstreet, Pres. and Michael Carson, V.P. of MY HOUSE