Solutions For Youth Fund |  Supporting Homeless Youth

I’m a counselor at the high school and every day I hear
multiple heartbreaking stories from so many students.
Hundreds of kids are living with people other
than their parents because their parents are drug
addicts, in jail, alcoholics, dead, or unfit. Students
come to school wearing the same old clothes every
day, the same old shoes every day regardless of all the
sadness and trauma that haunts them.

One question gives so many answers, “Who do you live
with?”

My grandma
My older sister
My older brother
My mom’s ex-boyfriend
My mom’s ex-husband
My aunt
My neighbor
My uncle
In my car

With any of these answers we can assume a large
amount of trauma. So much trauma that these students
can’t concentrate most of the day, can’t trust, can’t
learn…struggle. They share their problems with me.
They cry. They ache. They rage. They attempt
suicide. They cut. They mourn for absent parents.
I listen. I offer some coping strategies, a referral to
mental health, a hug, a snack, but often I am unable to
do more than listen and maybe make a schedule change.
Adverse childhood experiences – ACEs fill my day and
my mind. Post traumatic stress disorder – PTSD makes
kids sensitive, distracted and full of toxic stress. The
daily interaction with trauma gives me and my
coworkers secondary trauma.

Some days we leave work with very heavy hearts because there is not much
we can do to make significant change. But then…
But then came the Solutions for Youth Fund. Being able
to order a student a new pair of shoes and socks
so he/she is not bullied anymore over his/her smelly
shoes is powerful. Being able to order new clothes,
school supplies, a jacket and give them to students
who have very little happiness in their lives is healing.
In the lives of kids who think no one cares about them,
they feel cared about. They feel heard and shocked.
Shocked that anyone would give them something new.

These students feel undeserving, unworthy, unloved. I
know a pair of shoes doesn’t make a person happy, but
it does make them smile. They smile for a moment in
a life of years with no smiles. They walk proud in their
new clean clothes.

For those of us who grew up privileged with
birthdays, holidays, constant sources of love and support,
regular meals, trips, cars that run, safe homes, etc, we
find it hard to believe that a child could live 15
years and never have owned a new book or been
to a restaurant for dinner. It’s hard to believe that a
child could live an entire childhood with no bed, no new
clothes ever, limited food, and constant chaos in their
living space. But every day in my line of work, I talk to
kid after kid who lives that reality. They have been
abandoned by their parents and most of the time the
people who take them in are living in poverty themselves.

Every time I can give a student something he/she needs
with the help of the Solutions for Youth Fund, I know
that I’ve made a difference in a child’s life.

One reason is that I took the time to listen and find out. I earned
the child’s trust to have the difficult conversation about
needing things and I had an amazing support program
at Children First.

In one day these are some of the backgrounds of kids
myself and other counselors work with:
A student living with a single parent who is disabled
A student living with neighbors since their parent died
A student living with a single parent because the other
is in jail
A student living with a stepparent needing hygiene
products
A student living with a grandparent in poverty facing
eviction
A student living with a friend because their parents are
in prison or on the streets
A student living with a parent, both victims of domestic
abuse and struggling to survive.

There are so many young people suffering and living
without the basics. Providing them with small relief
helps them get by another day. Kids gasp in delight
when they see a new book or new shoes. It makes the
days of trauma filled stories a tiny bit less heavy
and takes the edge off of some of the toxic stress
so many kids are living with. Helping them helps our
community and everyone who interacts with them.

 

Author: Children First FFA