Ask   Submit   I am many things. A student, Apostolic, and a tad bit scatter-brained.

Youth Homelessness.

In the book “Almost Home” by Tina Kelley the lives of youths who, unfortunately, have suffered the brunt of life’s worst are chronicled. They are young women and young men who through life’s obstacles have found themselves as another statistic, as a homeless youth. To me, homelessness represents a deprivation of stability; a stability that we take for granted. A comfortability that we forget does not reach to all people. Such factors include: violence at home, behavioral health problems, drug abuse, and a lack of social support (family and friends), as well as involvement in the foster care system. Sometimes we’d like to believe that providing a child with a roof over their head, and food on the table is enough to keep a child happy, sometimes we think having two parents is enough of a blessing, but this isn’t always the case.  In both cases of adopted children, Muriel and Paulie, a seemingly okay life was not enough. For Paulie, his father’s abuse in the home and his mother’s inability to be strong for him and his sister led him to drug use and eventually a falling out with both parents. He ended up in the streets. Muriel, adopted from the Philippines, always felt foreign and outside her family circle. This coupled with her behavioral problems meant a drug addiction at the age of 12 and a spiral downward, until she eventually became an escort. Unbeknownst to her worn out mother, she was actually suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  It was the reason for her behavioral problems. But they gave up on her. In many ways, all these kids had someone give up on them.

Youth homelessness is becoming an increasingly prominent problem among affluent nations like the United States. Fortunately, there are orngaizations which are doing their best to fight against it. Organizations like Larkin Street Youth Services.  They believe that they best way to fight against youth homelessness is the best way in which they help ensure that at-risk and homesless youth have access to resources as well as the greatest opportunity to improve their lives. Through advocacy they are able to expand their funds. Larkin Street has three forms of advocacy. At the community level they provide education to raise an awareness of the issues that impact youth homelessness and runaways. They also participate in “policy setting work groups” in local, state, and national functions. Once there, they inform policy creators of the issues at hand. At their highest level of advocacy they inform elected officials of the impact that legislation can have on homelessness.  In order to be most effective there is coalition involvement by participating on the boards and committees of other organizations, such as the U.S Interagency Council on Homelessness. Being a Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar I have a desire to do better for our society. With a title as such there is a certain sense of credibility that can take me places. With the support of the program I can form an organization within American University that will advocate within DC. I can go back to my own community and bring awareness, especially in the city of Desert Hot Springs, where most of my church members are, and homelessness is prevalent. Being the daughter of a minister there is a certain respect that I gain. This, combined with their knowledge that I am a Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar allows me to speak and be heard. I’m not writing this to elevate myself in any way, but with this I can make a change. My voice is heard as well as believed. Any person getting an education, in a community where education is scarce can do much; it’s just a matter of acting upon it.

Aside fromm advocacy there is also action. An organization that provides such action is Stand Up For Kids. They allow people to “Adopt a Youth” for just $29.00. With those $29.00 they are able to provide access to medical attention, nutrition, education, employment and housing. Not only this but it is purely based on volunteering. They provide sixteen hours of training, which gives volunteers the tools in order to be most effective when reaching out to the kids. They have local programs set up all throughout the country, including Washington DC.  Because Stand Up For Kids is set up close to Washington DC I am able to volunteer at their center. During the Summer I can become a volunteer and work either behind the scenes or directly with the youths. I think that because I’m young it’s most effective to work directly with them. I also feel that more than anything someone needs to listen to them. They need someone to talk to them, no talk at them. Many times we simply feel pity for the homeless, but in reality they have the same amount of potential as any one of us.  Many of them have dreams and goals just like me, but their opportunities are limited. They need organizations and people that provide them with these opportunities. Potential wasted is a person left to the wayside, a possibility never realized. As a Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar I’m in the business of realizing my own potential in order to lift up the disadvantaged in society.  We have to lead by working with the people that we have a passion for.  Often we feel that it’s up to someone else to fix society’s ills, but we are society. Each one of us is a part of it. It only makes sense to be the very ones to get to work.

-Stephanie Vela

— 1 year ago with 2 notes
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