I have worked since 1981 with teenagers who are homeless, runaways, addicted to drugs and alcohol, in the criminal justice system, former gang members and victims of abuse and neglect. I am now the director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services, the largest program in Vermont for this population.
Tears of joy streamed down her face as she covered her mouth with her hands, staring in amazement at the portrait of the proud mother smiling over the shoulder of a young girl with the dancing brown eyes.
Experts estimate about 2 million kids run away from home each year putting them at greater risk of physical or sexual abuse, homelessness, drug addiction and physical and mental health problems. Many are in need of medical care or other services. To ensure runaways get the help they need, police in St. Paul, Minn. who encounter runaways are using a short, 10-question screening tool to assess the runaway’s safety and whether they have been victimized while they’ve been away from home. Medical professionals and researchers in Minnesota developed the 10-Question Tool with assistance from local police.
As the holidays draw closer, while many college students are spending late nights preparing for final exams and finishing projects, some students are just worried about finding the money to pay for food. At one college in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, students struggling between paychecks have access to a donated food pantry where they can stock up on two-weeks of food. The Feed the Future program, run by the Psychiatric and Social Services Department of Kennesaw State University and the KSU Staff Senate, feeds up to 30 hungry students each month during the fall and spring semesters, according to the program’s director, Tao Bartleson Mosley, a professor and social worker at the campus health clinic. “Demand varies by month,” she said. “Summer is slow.
One week back in February, I noticed something amiss at the Miller ranch when I came home from work. Our kid’s friend, Travis* was sitting on our couch enjoying Comedy Central. That wasn’t unusual, but after two weeks I came to the sneaking suspicion that Travis was actually living with us. After some investigation, we found he was spending his nights on a futon in our son’s room. When asked, our son said he felt sorry for him because he’d been kicked out of the Army, and then lost his job, which caused him to lose his car, which made him homeless because it was where he’d been living.
["The Other Side of the Rainbow: Young, Gay and Homeless in Metro Atlanta" is part 1 of a 3 part series on LGBT issues. Bookmark this page for updates.]
In April 2008, Brian Dixon was 18-years-old and homeless. Being gay, he says, only exacerbated his predicament. After allegedly enduring years of mental and physical abuse, at age 14 Dixon left home to live with his grandparents. Within a year, they placed him in Georgia’s foster care system.
“You got any weed?” is how William “Trash” Hansen introduced himself on a hot spring day in the Little 5 Points neighborhood of Atlanta. The heels of his socks peeked through the disintegrated soles of his steel-toed boots as he walked the strip in search of the drug. If you passed him on the street you may have thought twice before striking up a conversation. If the soot- drenched, patch- woven outfit didn’t give you pause, the blatant drug references and casual cat-calls may have. Sporadically he’d push back the small puff of dreadlocked hair sprouting from the crown of his head or run his arm across his forehead to wipe away sweat.
The Department of Health and Human Services, The Administration for Children and Families, The Administration on Children, Youth and Families, is offering the Runaway and Homeless Youth Street Outreach Program. The goal is to assist children who fall victim to exploitation and abuse on the streets. The objective is to increase the safety, wellbeing and self-sufficiency of homeless youth. This is accomplished by building connections with them so organizations can help provide for the child’s immediate physical needs while helping improve behavioral and psychological health for them. The deadline is June 24, 2011.