Category Archives: Community

Youth Homelessness

Let me tell you some statistics so you understand the severity of youth homelessness in America.

  • approximately 50,000 young people in the U.S. sleep on the streets for 6 months or more
  • estimated 550,000 unaccompanied youth are homeless longer than one week
  • 39% of the entire homeless population is under 18
  • 1 in 7 young people will run away from home
  • the average age a teen becomes homeless is 14 years
  • teens 12-17 are more likely to become homeless than adults
  • 50% of youth who are homeless said their parents either told them to leave, or knew that they were leaving and didn’t care

When we talk about homeless youth, we’re talking about young people age 24 and under, although most of them are about 14-17. A lot of kids become homeless when their families become homeless, but most of them are either kicked out or run away.

Youth run away or are homeless for several reasons. Sometimes it has something to with their involvement in the juvenile justice or child welfare systems. Many homeless kids were foster kids, but they aged out and were discharged with no housing or income support. Sometimes they are being physically, sexually, and/or emotionally abused at home and they eventually decide to leave. Sometimes there is some kind of severe family conflict going on, whether their parents are addicts, or abuse each other in front of the kids, or something else that’s unhealthy. Sometimes these youth are neglected or even abandoned by their parents.

Obviously, unaccompanied homeless youth are much more likely to get mixed up in bad things than other kids. Their experiences are also different than those of homeless kids who live with their families. Although those kids still have some tremendous issues and things to deal with, at least they have family by their side; unaccompanied youth are all on their own.

These kids, on their own and on the streets, are vulnerable to a range of awful, negative experiences, including exploitation and victimization. Because of their age and circumstances, they aren’t usually able to (legally) make enough money to meet their basic needs; so many, many homeless youth trade sex for money, clothing, and food. They also steal, and are much more likely to engage in criminal behavior and get involved in the juvenile justice system. They’re also often severely depressed, understandably so, and they drink and do drugs to mask the pain.

Homeless youth also have a hard time getting an education, because of the school system’s legal guardianship requirements, residency requirements, and requirements for proper records. Not to mention, sometimes kids just don’t have transportation to school. A lack of education certainly makes it harder for these kids to get on their feet and take care of themselves.

Isn’t it sickening when you think about it? Did you realize how many kids are homeless in our country, and not only how many are homeless, but how many are homeless BY THEMSELVES? Can you believe some of the circumstances these kids are in? Can you believe that a parent would kick their child out of their home, knowing that they have nowhere safe to go? Isn’t it awful imagining what they go through out there?

We cannot continue to allow this to happen to youth in our country. This is happening to far too many kids, and it shouldn’t be happening at all. We need more programs with emergency shelters available to young people. We need a health care plan designed specifically for homeless youth so their needs can be taken care of. We need programs that will help these youth regain stability, and especially programs with staff who are trained to break through their walls of fear and cynicism. We need to help these young people get an education, and help them find jobs so they can support themselves and gain skills they need to be successful. We need to educate our community so everyone is aware of what’s going on. We need to coach parents to be GOOD parents and take care of the needs of their children, rather than throwing them out on the streets and abandoning them. We need to take care of the children in our country.

Here at Youth Outreach in Newberg, Oregon, we offer a variety of services to runaway and homeless youth in Yamhill County.

  1. We have a Safe Shelter program, in which we offer emergency shelter for youth ages 11-17 who run away, are kicked out, are homeless, or maybe just need some time away from their parents. We have a 24 hour hotline the youth can call in case they need shelter after hours. We pick them up wherever they are, and take them to stay with a family in our community, where they’ll have a warm bed and food to eat.
  2. For youth ages 18-21, we have a Transitional Living Program for those who are homeless or kicked out. We set them up in an apartment for up to a year and a half (at no cost to them), and we help them find a job, save money, go to college if they’d like, and accomplish whatever other goals they have so they can be successful.
  3. We have a Street Outreach program that allows us to reach youth in our community. Every day, we send a team of three staff/volunteers out to tell youth about our services. We go downtown, to parks, and other places where youth often hang out. We carry a backpack full of food, toiletries, socks, and anything else a homeless youth may need.
  4. We recently started a Jobs Program. We have a Job Development Specialist who is available to help teens who need help finding a job, creating a resume, or practicing interview skills. She has monthly “Jobs Workshops” where she goes over different aspects of what it takes to get a job.
  5. In downtown Newberg, we have a Teen Drop-In Center that is designed to keep teens off the streets and in a safe, positive environment with adults who care. We have board games, video games, pool, fooseball, and other activities. We plan fun parties and events. We give the youth snack everyday after school, and have food bags available for homeless youth who come in. We have Study Hall twice a week, and offer free tutoring. We also offer peer support groups and prevention classes every month, and discuss things like safe dating, teen drinking, how to quit smoking, etc. Our drop-in center is open until 9 pm, giving teens a safe place to hang out even after dark.

The goal is to completely end youth homelessness by 2020. It’ll take a lot of work, but we need to get these kids out of danger and give them a better life.

#endyouthhomelessness

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LGBTQ Bullying: It Needs to STOP

That’s so gay. She’s such a lesbo. Look at those pants, he’s so gay. What a fag. They’re such a homos.

How many times a day do you hear statements like these?

Approximately 1/4 of all high school students are bullied because of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, or sexual orientation. About 90% of gay teens are bullied… and half of them report being physically harassed by their peers. Most of these kids feel unsafe going to school.

Can you imagine what that’s like?

Teens who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, or Questioning are 3 times more likely to commit suicide, 5 times more likely to skip school, and also very likely to drop out of school altogether. Many of them don’t further their education and go to college because they’re afraid the bullying will continue. I mean, really, can you see why they feel this way? Everyday is a battle for them. They can’t get away from the negative comments, the name-calling, the physical harassment.

Bullying happens lots of different ways:

  1. Verbal bullying: Calling names and saying negative things to a person’s face
  2. Physical bullying: pushing, shoving, hitting, kicking, punching, slapping, putting someone in a locker, anything else where you physically harm them
  3. Cyber bullying: Posting things online about a person, gossiping about someone via social media
  4. Indirect bullying: Gossiping about a person behind their back, spreading rumors, making comments like “that’s so gay” in front of someone who you know is gay

Whether you realize it or not, if you do any of these things, YOU ARE A BULLY.

Why do we treat each other this way? Like, seriously. When are we ever going to get over this? Will there ever be a day when people don’t feel like they have to pretend to be someone else, or like they’ll have to suffer if they don’t?

Although there is some progress, the LGBTQ community still gets an overwhelming message from society that being gay is wrong. So don’t make things harder for them.

Next time you see someone bullying a LGBTQ peer, speak up. Tell them it’s not cool. Stand behind the kid being bullied and tell the other kids to knock it off. Let them know that you accept them for who they are, and if they ever need anyone to talk to, they can trust you. Bullying is always wrong, and it’s really wrong when it happens because of someone’s sexual orientation. Really, who cares? Why does anyone care about anyone else’s sexuality? Let them be them, and you can be you! Don’t worry about it!

If YOU or a FRIEND are being bullied, here’s what you can do:

  • Tell a teacher, counselor, coach, or someone else at school. Tell them everything that’s been happening. If they don’t do anything about it, or you feel like they don’t do enough, talk to someone else. There ARE people who care and who will do everything to help you. You just need to tell them… don’t be embarrassed.
  • Let your parents know everything that’s been going on.
  • If necessary, tell the authorities and press charges.
  • There are several hotlines you can call for help, or even if you just need someone to talk to: GLBT National Help Center (1-800-246-PRIDE), The Trevor Project Hotline (1- 866-488-7386 or text “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200 or chat on their website, http://www.thetrevorproject.org), or The National Suicide Prevention Line (1-800-273-TALK),

LGBTQ bullying needs to stop, but it’s never going to if we all continue to say and do things that make it hard on everyone in that community. That means you need to quit saying “that’s so gay” and calling your friends “fags,” even if it is a joke. We’re getting closer and closer to getting past this, guys… but we need to do it together.

Cliques Aren’t Cool

When you’re at school, sure, you usually hang out with the same people everyday. Or maybe you have a few different groups you hang with. Makes sense… they’re probably people that you have a lot in common with. It isn’t bad to have a group of friends, or to hang with the same people. It only gets bad when you and your friends become “clique-y.”

A “clique” is a tight group of friends that have a strict code of membership and ways to act. They’re not so much about the friendships, but more about maintaining their status and popularity. Sometimes they use their status and power to exclude and be mean to other people. A group of girls might laugh and make fun of another group of girls they pass by in the halls, to make them feel not as cool as them… or they might get mad at a girl in their own group for wearing a sweatshirt and jeans, and not dressing up like them everyday.

If you feel like you’re in the middle of a drama-filled high school movie… your friends are probably too clique-y.

Obviously, girls aren’t the only ones in cliques. While girls usually form their cliques around style and fashion, guys tend to form cliques around a sport, video game, or music.

Cliques can lead to bullying, and that’s something you don’t want to have any part in. There’s no sense in making someone feel bad and like they aren’t as “cool” as you, just because you so desperately want to be cool yourself and fit in, Really… is it worth it? Is it worth being a jerk to someone, just so you can impress your supposed “friends?” Do you REALLY think they’re your friends, if that’s what it takes for them to like you?

Again, being in different groups isn’t bad at all. Maybe you hang with your soccer friends sometimes, your choir friends other times, and the other girls who share your love for reality shows at other times. That’s perfectly normal, and JUST FINE. You should be hanging with people you feel comfortable with, and that you share similar interests with.

It only becomes a problem if you and your friends become obsessed with your status and start bullying other people because of it. Usually, people in cliques aren’t true friends. They’re bossy and demanding. They tell you how you should dress, how you should act, what you should say. Who needs friends like that?

Always remember to be TRUE TO YOURSELF. Make sure you always do the things you love, listen to music you enjoy, and dress how you want to dress. If anyone else isn’t cool with that, you don’t need them. Make sure that all of your friends are cool with you for who you really are.

If one of your friends is getting clique-y and is being a jerk to other people, tell them. Tell them they’re being ridiculous and they need to stop. Be kind and sensitive towards others… you wouldn’t want someone else to be mean to you, or any of your friends. Also don’t let them pressure you. Who cares if they’re giving you a hard time about hanging with that other guy that’s “too lame”? Don’t quit hanging out with him if you enjoy his friendship. YOU are responsible for your own actions. Have a mind of your own.

One thing that seems to be true in most high schools, is that usually it seems to be underclassmen who are more obsessed with cliques and popularity. Once high schoolers get older, they realize that it doesn’t really matter. It isn’t worth it. After high school, nobody will care that you were on homecoming court. All the status and popularity points will disappear. So do you really want to work that hard and sacrifice that much for something that only lasts 4 years??

It’s pretty simple… if you want good friends, BE A GOOD FRIEND. Be a good listener. Be caring. Always check in with your friends to see how things are going. Don’t be mean. Don’t be rude or make anyone feel bad. Be the type of friend you want other people to be to you. Don’t get mixed up in the lame high school drama.

Gender Roles & Expectations: Just Be YOU!

Girls and boys are born different. Girls like makeup, Barbie’s, painting their nails, and pink; boys like trucks, sports, and playing in the dirt. That’s just how it is… We can’t help it, we’re just programmed differently. 

Right?

Not necessarily.

Many people don’t understand the difference between sex and gender. Sex is biological. So, sex is how male and female’s bodies are different. Gender, however, has more to do with their personality and how they identify themselves. Gender roles, more specifically, are the expectations of how a person should act, dress, and talk based on their sex.

For instance… girls are not born loving all things pink and boys are not born loving all things sports. Rather, the majority of girls learn to like “feminine” things and boys learn to like “masculine” things because of the expectations society has for girls and boys. People buy baby girls certain things, and baby boys other things. Girls are dressed a certain way, boys are dressed a certain way. On TV and in movies, men and women are portrayed differently. Men are tough and strong, women are emotional and nurturing.

Am I saying that there’s anything wrong with girls being feminine and boys being masculine? Absolutely not. I’m a girl, and I love pink, shopping, makeup, and accessories. My husband loves sports, hunting, and video games. There is nothing at all wrong with that… that’s the way WE are.

But there IS something wrong when people are afraid to be who they are, so they conform to society’s standards. It’s wrong when boys get made fun of for enjoying things like singing and dancing, and when girls get made of for not wearing makeup and playing football. 

Given, for some reason, society is a lot more lenient on masculine girls than feminine boys. It’s kind of okay for girls to be tomboys, but it is never okay for boys to be sissy’s. Boys are under a lot more pressure to be a certain way than girls are. But, nonetheless, girls are also under a certain amount of pressure, too. 

Gender roles are limiting because people feel pressure to act a certain way, other than who they really are, just to fit it and avoid being made fun of. Why is society like that? Why can’t people just express themselves and do the things they love, without worrying about what other people might think?

If you feel like you aren’t masculine or feminine enough, I encourage you to JUST BE YOU. Who cares. Express yourself. Do what you love. Don’t put on a show for anybody. Don’t fake it and be miserable when you can be yourself and do things that make you happy.

In the same way, for others of you, stop making fun of the boy on the dance team. He loves to dance! Who cares? More power to him. Stop making fun of the girl who wears baggy T-shirts and basketball shorts everyday. That’s her style, just like you have your style. Who cares?

Nobody deserves to be made fun of or have to hide who they really are. JUST BE YOURSELF! If anyone chooses to make fun of you, that’s their problem. Don’t let it get to you.

Texting and Driving: DON’T Do It!

You’re cruising down the road, driving in your car with a few of your friends. You feel a buzz on your leg and see you got a text message. There’s not much traffic on the road, and you’re not going too fast, so you decide to open the text and read it real quick. It’ll just take you a few seconds. No big deal.

Just a few seconds of taking your eyes of the road can cost someone their life, whether it’s you, your friends, another driver, or a pedestrian… or all of the above.

Did you know that texting and driving is now the leading cause of death among teenagers? More teens die from that than anything else, even drinking and driving. Over 3,000 teens die every single year from texting and driving… and about 11 teens die everyday because of it.

Here are some statistics:

  • more than 50% of teens admit to texting while driving
  • drivers are 23 times more likely to get in an accident if texting while driving
  • in 2011, 23% of car crashes involved cell phones… that’s 1.3 million crashes
  • 1 in 5 drivers even admit to surfing the web while driving (what)
  • texting while driving causes 1,600,000 accidents per year
  • it causes 330,000 injuries per year

Think about it this way: if you’re sending a text, or even just looking at one, it’ll take you a minimum of about 5 seconds. If you’re driving 55 mph, in 5 seconds you will drive the length of a football field. If a football field were full of cars and people walking, would you drive down it without looking? I sure hope not.

A lot of people think there are ways to make texting and driving more “safe.” For instance, holding your phone up towards your windshield so you can “kind of see” the road. Or only texting while stopped at a stop sign or red light. Sometimes people will increase their following distance behind the car in front of them, or they’ll just read texts but not write any. 

Nope. Accidents and deaths are still caused when drivers do these things to be “safer.”

The bottom line is, just don’t do it. Make sure you text everyone back before you start driving, or just check your phone when you get to that destination. If you need to talk to someone because of an emergency, you can use a hands-free device and call them. But don’t put your and other peoples lives in dangers just to text your crush and say “whats up,” or whatever you feel is so urgent. Because even if you’ve made it this far without any problems, one day you might become one of the statistics and something horrible will happen because of your texting and driving. Just don’t risk it.

And another thing, if your friend is driving you somewhere and starts texting, don’t hesitate to speak up and ask them to not text and drive. Because really, YOUR life is in their hands. It’s not cool of them to do something that could put your life at risk. It isn’t rude to ask them to knock it off.