In the summer of 2014, I began an internship in New York. Two days a week, I was coming into New York to do work for free that no one else wanted to.
I can’t tell you too many things I learned at that internship. Organizing books, sending mail etc. But what I did take away from those 6 months was the project I did on my own.
Taking the train into midtown, walking 15 blocks, I saw so many homeless people.
I began packing 6 lunches every Thursday and Friday and handing them out to people I’d see walking to work.
My initial thoughts were what did they do wrong to get there?
My mother’s apprehension came when she began realizing what I was doing, was encountering drug addicts or alcoholics. That’s the homeless stereotype a lot of people had.
But what got me the most was how many people ignored these people, looking right through them like they weren’t even there. I couldn’t do that.
As I began my career in New York I thought to myself ‘may you never grow too desensitized here that you ignore someone asking for help.’
What started as handing out lunches, quickly turned into conversations. Myself sitting in a business outfit, on the sidewalk finding out these strangers stories.
What I began to realize was if we can beat them to this point, solve the problem earlier, we wouldn’t have a homeless adult population.
Enter Covenant House. As a career in social media began to take off and people saw what I was doing, a friend called me and said, I have the perfect organization for you.
It’s been four years, close to $20,000 raised, multiple events I led, traveling as far as to Guatemala. Running races. Not just making volunteer work a hobby but a pillar for how I led my life.
In four years I went from a mindset of ‘what did this person do wrong in their life to get here?’ To ‘what happened to them? What is their story? What shitty card did they get dealt and what choices were they left with? And lastly, how can I help?’
Kevin Ryan spoke and said something so profound at the opening ceremony of the Asbury Rights of Passage Program, ‘I occasionally get asked how God can allow children and youth to suffer in the streets without shelter, without food, without healthcare, without love. I always say the same thing: I think God has the same question for us.’
When a parent, when a guardian, when someone who is supposed to care for a child fails a child, we have to realize it isn’t the child who has failed but rather someone else who has not provided them with the basic necessities to thrive.
And when that happens it is up to everyone else around that youth to rise to the occasion and be what they need.
Because it is everyone’s problem.
Every child deserves, love safety and security, a place to sleep and food.
When you take that from someone, they quickly need to do whatever they have to, to survive.
A child shouldn’t have to learn how to survive and that’s why it’s up to everyone to link arms and change this problem that can be solved.
I believe the homeless youth ‘problem’ isn’t really a problem if we can solve it.
- 2 million kids in America will face being homeless
- 57% percent of youth will spend at least one day a month without food.
- 20,000 youth a year will be forced into prostitution by human sex trafficking network.
- 25% of foster kids will be homeless within two to four years.
- 40% of homeless youth are under 18 years old.
In four years of volunteering, it’s a cause I’ve fallen in love with because it is so needed.
I frequently would ask myself, ‘what is your why?’ Why am I doing this? Why do I care? Why do I continue to come back every year so passionate about this work?
And my answer is simple, somebody has to care about these kids in ways their family the system has failed them.
I dare you to meet a homeless youth, find out their story and tell them it’s their fault. They aren’t old enough to take that responsibility because someone who shouldn’t have failed them.
If we don’t want an adult homeless population, we have to ensure there isn’t a youth homeless population. And that is something we can all strive towards.
Every child is one caring adult away from being a success story.