Category Archives: Juvenile Crime
Runaway and homeless youth are not bad kids; they’re just kids in bad situations. It’s important to remember this, because one of the great obstacles to stability these young people have to overcome is the stereotype that they are willfully homeless, or that their homelessness is simply a consequence of poor decision making. But we all know nothing is ever that simple. Consider the following:
- Approximately 1.7 million young people call the streets home every year.
- Children under 18 account for 34% of the homeless population in the United States.
- Every year, approximately 5,000 homeless young people will die because of assault, illness, or suicide while trying to survive.
- About 80% of homeless youth (aged 12-21) use drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate to deal with the traumatic experiences and abuse they face.
- Over 50% of young people in shelters and on the streets report that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and didn’t care.
- Of youth who run away, 41% have been abandoned by their parents for at least 24 hours and 43% have been beaten by a caretaker
Young people become homeless for a variety of reasons, but the most common is family dysfunction. This can be anything from abuse to addiction to mental illness, all resulting in parental neglect, which forces some youth to fend for themselves – and in extreme cases to provide and care for their own parents and younger siblings. Imagine if you had to become the head of your household tomorrow; how long do you think you could sustain? Even families with little to no dysfunction are vulnerable to sudden homelessness, because they may be at the whims of the country’s economic climate – joblessness affects people from all walks of life, and families move into shelters by the hundreds every day, unable to find affordable housing.
Another reason youth sometimes leave their homes is sexual abuse. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 21-40% of homeless youth have been sexually abused prior to running away. And the victimization doesn’t necessarily stop there; many young people on the streets are too young for traditional employment and must resort to trading sex for money, food, clothing, or a place to stay. Similarly, some youth who “age out” of the Foster Care system are dumped into society with no economic or emotional supports, and often look to misdemeanor crimes to survive – either to temporarily get money, or to be put in jail where they will at least have a bed and a meal. Many homeless youth are then never able to transition into the workforce, let alone finish their high school diplomas, when the only earning potential they see for themselves is within the underground economy. This is part of the cycle that turns homeless youth into chronically homeless adults.
Below is a sample from a survey done by the National Network for Youth in 2013, which asked thousands of homeless young people nationwide to characterize the homeless youth experience based on their stories by offering insights that could complete the sentence, “I am a homeless youth. I…”
…am no different from other youth. I simply don’t have a safe place to live.
…may come from a poor family, or my family may have money.
…may come from a city. But I may also come from a rural town, suburb, Indian reservation, border colony, or foreign country.
…may have traveled miles from home, but I may also have traveled just a few blocks.
…sometimes act tough because that is a skill I developed to survive without a safe place to live. But, I know to behave differently if you give me positive attention.
…may have left on my own because it was safer for me to get out. But I also may have been kicked out of home because my family didn’t understand or accept me.
…may get caught up in the wrong crowd for self-protection. But I am not violent or a gang member. I’m just hanging on the street because I don’t have another place to go.
…usually just have too much stress and competing priorities to operate at the same pace as my peers with safe places to live. I am not dumb or unmotivated.
… need to take care of getting a safe place to live and a source of food and clean clothes before I can focus on finding a job or completing school.
… want to work to support myself. But I probably need some help building work skills and help finding a job, just like any other young person looking for a first job.
… want to wear clean clothes and take regular showers. If I look grungy, it’s because I don’t have regular access to these basic things.
…may use alcohol or drugs or have a mental illness. But if I do, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to get help.
…can still take care of my own child and be a good parent but may need some help in learning how since I may not have had a good role model in my own childhood.
…may be reluctant to ask for help right away because I may not trust you. So please ask me first if I need help. And be patient while my trust in you strengthens.
…have dreams and goals. I can succeed in life despite the hardships I have faced.
…am not disposable. I am a human being. Be happy I am alive. I am the future.
Many of the things mentioned above are why organizations like Youth Outreach exist. We work to protect those who can’t always protect themselves, despite being incredibly resilient and strong. We have two programs to help youth who don’t have anywhere to stay, whether they’ve been kicked out, run away, or their family has become homeless. Safe Shelter is available to kids ages 11-17, and provides short term shelter with families in the community who’ve volunteered to be host homes. The Transitional Living Program (or TLP) is designed for youth ages 18-21 who need help getting started and learning to live independently. YO has two apartments located in Newberg and McMinnville where youth can stay while they look for a job and save some money. We also have programs that work to prevent youth from running away in the first place. Youth Outreach has a Drop-In center that is open until 9 pm on weeknights, where teens can find a safe and positive environment, with everything from peer support groups to Christmas parties. Youth can spend their time getting help with homework, learning about things like dating abuse, working with us to find a job, or just hanging out and playing pool as a way to stay out of the rain.
If you encounter someone who is in need of assistance, or ever find yourself in a tough spot, give a us a call. Anytime. Day or night. 1.866.538.8023. We can help!
Cocaine is one of the most dangerous drugs out there. Teens think it’s cool because it’s a stimulant drug, meaning it gives you tons of energy so you can stay up all night long and party and hang with friends. But it can also kill you.
Stimulants are drugs that elevate your mood, give you more energy, and increase your feelings of well-being. Basically, they cause your body to speed up… which means they also elevate your heart rate and blood pressure, which is incredibly dangerous.
Cocaine is available in two different forms. It can be in powder form, which people can either snort or inject with a needle (if they mix it with water); or it’s sometimes in the form of small white rocks, otherwise known as “crack cocaine,” and can be smoked. Some street names for cocaine are coke, coca, snow, blow, flake, candy, or rock; it’s also called “speedball” when it’s mixed with other drugs.
Here are some of the short-term effects of cocaine:
- faster heartbeat
- body feels hot
- shaking and twitching
- can’t sleep or eat
- feelings of anger, nervousness, paranoia, and fear
- stomach pain
- weight loss
- after the high wears off, you will crash and feel tired and sad for days (and crave it)
And here are some of the long-term effects:
- built up tolerance (so you crave more and need more to feel the same high)
- strange unpredictable behavior, like panic attacks and feeling paranoid
- snorting can lead to hoarseness, loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, and a constant runny nose
- respiratory problems
- heart attack
- brain damage
- violent behavior
- sudden death (even for first time users)
If you suspect that one of your friends may be using cocaine, you definitely need to get them help. It could save their life. You can usually tell that something sketchy is going on when friends start acting really weird, and not like themselves: if they’re starting to not do as well in school, hanging out with a different crowd, if they seem depressed and have lost weight, lost their motivation, and aren’t taking care of their appearance and hygiene. People using drugs are also very moody, might have changed their sleeping pattern, and have bloodshot, tired looking eyes. They also might always be asking for money, or even stealing money.
Try talking to your friend and ask if something’s going on. In some cases, they may actually open up and be honest with you about what they’ve been doing. But sometimes, probably in most cases, teens can be afraid or embarrassed to admit that they’re using drugs, and will lie to even their closest friends. They might get angry with you. If that happens, you need to tell an adult. You aren’t telling on them, or getting them in trouble… you’re literally saving their life by telling someone. It’s nothing to feel bad about. Tell a trusted adult, like a parent, school counselor, teacher, or coach. They can help you confront your friend and get them the help they need.
You could also have your friend call either 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-662-HELP. By calling these hotlines, your friend can talk to a professional about the steps they should take to get over their cocaine addiction. Or, you can go online with them and visit http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment and find a local treatment center where they can receive help.
Cocaine is highly addictive, so even if your friend has only tried it a few times, they’re still craving it. Or if they’ve been using for a long time, it’s going to continue to get worse. It’s only a matter of time until something happens to them. Get them the help they need NOW.
Have you heard of all those pro athletes that have gotten busted for using steroids? Steroids are drugs that make you bulk up and gain tons of muscle and testosterone without actually working for it. It’s illegal and it’s cheating. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of pro athletes that have used steroids to get stronger and better at their sport… But sometimes high school students even use steroids, too.
Although the percentage of high school students who use steroids is relatively low (1% of female students and about 12% of male students), that number is growing. People use steroids to either improve their sports performance or the way they look, but usually it’s for sports.
The type of steroids that people use to gain tons of muscle are called anabolic-androgenic steroids. Anabolic refers to the steroids ability to develop muscle, and androgenic refers to their role in promoting the development of male sexual characteristics (testosterone). These steroids are usually made up of synthetic substances similar to testosterone, which is how they cause people to build so much muscle, grow more facial hair, get deeper voices, etc. In some cases, doctors do prescribe steroids to people who have unusually low levels of testosterone. But otherwise, they’re illegal.
A couple of “street names” for steroids are juice and roids, and they’re taken either from pills or needles. People who use steroids illegally usually take doses that are 10-100 times higher than what doctors prescribe patients for medical reasons.
So, what exactly is so bad about steroids? Here are some of the health consequences:
- stunted growth
- weight gain
- sleeping problems
- greater chance of getting injured
- blood clots
- kidney impairment/failure
- damage to the liver
- cardiovascular problems: enlargement of heart, high blood pressure, changes in cholesterol leading to increased risk of stroke and heart attack
- weakened immune system
- for guys: reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts, increased risk of prostate cancer
- for girls: growth of facial hair, male-pattern baldness, changes in menstrual cycle, permanently deepened voice
- possibly death
On top of all of that, steroids can always have a huge effect on your behavior. You could start experiencing mood swings, manic-like symptoms leading to violence, depression, irritability, paranoia, delusions, and impaired judgment.
If somebody you know is using steroids, here’s what you can do:
- Tell a trusted adult, like a parent, teacher, counselor, or coach.
- Talk to them. Tell them about the health risks that go along with using steroids, and that it’s really not worth it.
- Call the Treatment Referral Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP. They can refer you to local treatment facilities, support groups, and other organizations that can help.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. They can help you with all kinds of issues besides suicide.
If you want to be a star athlete, don’t cheat… you need to work for it! You just need to train, eat, and practice the healthy way. Don’t use drugs to help you reach your goals.