Teens In Trouble: Raising Awareness For Youth Homelessness

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Teens In Trouble: Raising Awareness For Youth Homelessness
By Linda Hilts

Together, the words youth and homeless may seem out of place to you. But did you know that every year in the United States there is an estimated 1.8 – 2.1 million homeless children living on the streets.

Homeless youth are children under the age of eighteen who lack parental, foster, or other care services. The number continues to rise and the lower end of the age range continues to drop each year. Children as young as eleven are now living on the streets.

For most of us, it’s unfathomable how this could happen but the causes are deep-rooted, multilayered and extremely complicated. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a large number of homeless children interviewed reported that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and did not care.

The reasons for escaping a traumatic home life include physical and mental abuse, economic problems, and overall neglect. In addition, many homeless children suffer from depression, substance abuse and anxiety disorders. As you might imagine, these young people are susceptible to teen pregnancy and criminal activity, leading to a continual cycle of abuse.

The Savannah area is not immune to the cycle of homelessness. In Chatham County, 54% of homeless are men, 28% female, 10% female youth, and 8% male youth.

Approximately 125 to 150 youth (residential and non-residential) are served each year through Park Place Outreach. The capacity of the shelter is 12 at any given time, with four beds reserved to guarantee that no child in need of emergency shelter is ever turned away. Park Place Outreach also provides comprehensive outreach services designed to prevent incidents of running away and homelessness. Through these outreach efforts, Park Place Outreach reaches approximately 2,600 youth each year.

Since opening in 1984, PPO has served over 6,200 youth. Last year, in 2014, Park Place Outreach provided shelter for 84 residents, 41 non – residential clients, 41 non-residential families and served 6,298 meals plus two snacks per day.

The ultimate goal for Park Place Outreach and most youth shelters across the country is to provide a safe and loving environment with hopes of reunifying families.

According to the First Focus Campaign for Children, the number of homeless students in the U.S. increased by 8% in the school year 2014-15 from the previous academic period. And here at home, these numbers are also rising. Savannah Chatham Public School System reported that there were 975 students experiencing homelessness in the 2013-14 academic year.

Recall for yourself how difficult it was surviving the middle and high school years. Add to that the struggles of being abandoned by your parents or running away from home and you have a recipe for complete despair. Most young people want to blend in and look like everyone else around them, causing as little attention to themselves as possible. This desire to mask their reality makes it even more difficult for schools to identify homeless students.

Public schools are required to ensure homeless students have access to a free public education. Fortunately, students are allowed to stay in their “home” school and transportation must be provided to that school. But this transportation cost quickly consumes most of the funding set aside for youth homelessness. Federal funding is based on the number of students identified as homeless which makes it critical to know how many students are living on the streets or in shelters.

Organizations such as Park Place Outreach play a vital role in filling the gap for services needed for these troubled teens and children. The local shelter is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a primary goal of supporting children in need.

In 2014, the National Runaway Safeline reported 130 inbound and 71 outbound calls for the 912 area code. This is a community-wide epidemic that is not going away easily. And if not supported, these young people will become part of the adult homeless population and another statistical representation of this destructive cycle affecting families. Support and education are the two primary tools we can use in the fight against homelessness. To learn more about youth homeless or how you can help make a difference here at home, visit www.parkplaceyes.org

Linda K. Hilts is the Executive Director at Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Shelter. Hilts can be reached at 912-234-4048.

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Goodwill of the Coastal Empire Announces Stand Down for Homelessness Resource and Job Fair

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(SAVANNAH, GA) The twelfth annual Veterans Stand Down for Homelessness Resource and Job Fair will be held September 15 and 16 at the Savannah Civic Center from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Participants will be offered a hot meal, haircuts, showers and and will have opportunities for a variety of health screenings. Representatives from more than 40 Social Service agencies will be available to provide information and outreach on a variety of services including housing options, job resources, resume writing tips, substance abuse treatment, income tax assistance, and accesses to Social Security and Veteran’s Administration services.

This event is a collaboration of Savannah’s military and nonprofit communities to reach individuals in crisis and connect them with programs and services designed to help end homelessness. The Stand Down is intended to serve homeless veterans but is open to all individuals and families impacted by homelessness. There is no cost to attend.

The job fair will be held on Wednesday, September 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Savannah Civic Center. The job fair is open to the public and local employers will be onsite to fill positions. If you know of a local business interested in hiring have them reach out to Goodwill of the Coastal Empire (Michael Whitfield) at 912.354.6611.

Community sponsors include The Department of Veteran Affairs Community Based Out-Patient Clinic, The Savannah Vet Center, the American Legion Post 500, Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, the Georgia Department of Veteran Services, the Georgia Department of Labor, the Military Order of the Purple Hearts, the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless and the Salvation Army.

Each year over 400 community volunteers assist with the Stand Down, including the Social Work department at Savannah State University that coordinates the distribution of clothes and personal items.

In the last year, 285 veterans were homelessness in Chatham County, according to statistics released by the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless. Traditionally, the Homeless Authority sees veterans from the Vietnam era, however, more and more veterans from the Gulf and Afghanistan conflicts are requesting various services. These men and women have served their country and we want them to know that the Savannah community is here to help them when they return.

The Stand Down is funded by a federal grant offered through the United States Department of Labor. Agencies such as Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, The Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless, The Salvation Army and other area nonprofit organizations pull the event together annually. The local universities provide volunteers and fundraise to ensure the event is a success. For more information on Stand Down for Homelessness, visit http://nchv.org/index.php/service/service/stand_down/

About Goodwill of the Coastal Empire
Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, Inc. is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization with over 850 employees. In 2014, Goodwill provided services to 9,885 people, placed 2,421 into employment and served more than 320 veterans in various programs. Goodwill serves 33 counties in Georgia and South Carolina, operating 17 retail locations, and five Job Connection Centers. Goodwill accepts tax deductible donations of clothing, household items, computers, and car donations. For more information on Goodwill of the Coastal Empire, please visit us at http://goodwillsavannah.org. Find us on Facebook: Savannah Goodwill or follow us on Twitter: @SavGoodwill.

Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless (CSAH)

The mission of CSAH is to lead the effort to build and sustain community practices to eliminate homelessness. CSAH collaborates and develops a continuum of services for the homeless including child and family development, low income housing development, community outreach, case management, education, training, literacy support, employment, health and nutrition, transportation, and behavioral health services. CSAH works with community leaders to educate the public about why homelessness occurs and how to work together to solve these pressing issues. For more information go online to www.homelessauthority.org.

Onsite Contact
Jan Bass
Marketing Director
Goodwill of the Coastal Empire
jbass@goodwillsavannah.org
912.663.0685

Media Contact
Marjorie Young
Carriage Trade PR, Inc.
savannahpublicrelations@gmail.com
912.844.9990
http://carriagetradepr.com