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Getting Our Youth Off the Streets

Wendy Gladney

Upland, CA

Homelessness continues to be a major problem across our country. When most of us think about the homeless
we think of those who have a drinking problem or suffer from various addictions, but it is bigger than this
picture. The homeless population continues to grow because of a variety of reasons such as but not limited to,
the loss of jobs, the cost of living, having to choose between basics such as food, transportation, and even
childcare. One of the major culprits is also the lack of affordable housing causing people to go from couch
surfing to eventually ending up on the street. A growing number of the homeless community are our youth. We
must do what we can to get our youth and their families off the street.
During the pandemic a rise in homelessness grew. Homeless tents and pop-ups have been seen in
neighborhoods and locations we never thought would have such traffic. Families with children, unaccompanied
youth, transitional aged youth (TAYs), seniors, and veterans continue to be a growing population in the
homeless community. Sadly, Black and Native Americans are proportionately a large number of this society. It
has been shared that an estimated 500,000+ people experience homelessness on any given night right here in
our own backyard. It has also been proven that homeless people tend to die between 15-20 years before those
that live in homes. Organizations, individuals, as well as local and federal government need to be concerned
with how we can help end and the problem of homelessness.
I have worked with Forgiving For Living, Inc., a nonprofit for over two decades. Our mission is to help girls and
we have seen our share of youth who have been victims of gangs, sex and human trafficking and other atrocities
when faced with homelessness or even the threat of becoming homeless. When youth (especially young girls,
even Transitional Aged Youth (TAY’s) grow up on the streets or depend on the generosity of people letting them
sleep on their couch they become vulnerable beyond measure. Homeless children are also more likely to suffer
from hunger, and health issues. Some of their health issues can stay with them throughout their lifetime.
Affordable housing should be of concern to all of us. So many people are living paycheck to paycheck and
owning their own home is a distant dream, keeping a roof over their head and their family is their primary
concern. For those of us that live in California the dream of owning a home is even further of a reality. However,
even with all this doom we cannot give up. When the public and private sector can come together there is
always an opportunity to improve situations that appear bleak. Basic housing should be a right and not a
privilege for everyone. We never know how close we or someone we love could be faced with these same
We must remember that no one wakes up and says they want to be homeless and live on the street. Jan
Schakowsky said, “There is a lot that happens around the world we cannot control. We cannot stop
earthquakes, we cannot prevent droughts, and we cannot prevent all conflict, but when we know where the
hungry, the homeless, and the sick exist, then we can help.” We must all ask what are we doing to make an
impact with helping get a youth off the streets and into some sort of positive living situation.
Healing Without Hate: It’s a choice. It’s a lifestyle. Pass it on.

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