The Importance of Safety, Stability, and Support for Runaway and Homeless Youth

As some of you may know, November is National Runaway Prevention Month. At One Roof’s monthly membership meeting, the Birmingham Working Group of the Alabama Network for Youth, which includes representatives from Children’s Aid Society, Family Connection, and Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity (JCCEO), gave a special presentation to raise awareness of issues facing runaway and homeless youth. Led by Susan Johnston, Executive Director of Family Connection, the group highlighted the following statistics:

  • Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth runaway each year
  • 1 in 5 youth run away before age 18, and half run away two more times
  • 5000 runaway and homeless youth die on the streets each year
  • In 2012, the National Runaway Safeline received 994 calls from youth in Alabama seeking assistance

These numbers are staggering, and it’s important to note that the nearly 1000 calls made to Safeline last year by Alabama youth were only from youth who sought this form of assistance—this does not include youth in Alabama who didn’t use this service, who might not have even known about this service. We at One Roof believe that all persons deserve to feel safe, gain stability, receive appropriate supportive services, and obtain affordable housing. Runaway and homeless youth have likely left a situation where they didn’t feel safe, stable, or supported. Continued instability puts these youth at great risk and we cannot expect them to become healthy, contributing members of our community if we don’t meet their needs.

Service providers and One Roof member agencies are actively working to meet the needs of runaway and homeless youth in Central Alabama:

Family Connection runs a Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter in Shelby County, proving a safe space for runaway youth, youth experiencing homelessness, and youth-in-crisis. Family Connection also runs Project Hope in Jefferson County, providing street outreach and drop-in day shelter services to youth experiencing homelessness. They are dedicated to protecting runaway and homeless youth, giving youth the resources they need to regain stability, and reuniting youth with their families and support systems whenever possible. Check out their website for more information about their services.

Youth Towers, under the leadership of Executive Director Alice Westery, works to “provide housing stability for young adults as they transition from foster care or other high risk conditions to self-sustainability.” Youth Towers serves youth aged 19-26 and their services include street outreach, homelessness prevention, case management, career counseling, tutoring, life skill training, and housing relocation and stabilization. They are dedicated to giving youth the resources and support they need to gain stability and become contributing members of our community. Check out their website for more information about their services.

There is also a group called the Sheltering Homeless Youth Project, made up of community volunteers, leaders, and members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. This group is currently working to end youth homelessness in our community by building a home host program and serving youth age 19-24.

Through education, advocacy, and coordination of services, One Roof is dedicated to making sure that runaway and homeless youth feel safe, gain stability, and receive support. This population is very important to us and we’re here to help. Please contact us for assistance with finding appropriate services for runaway and homeless youth. If you’d like to make a donation to support our efforts, please click here.

 

Josh Helms is an AmeriCorps member serving at One Roof as the Capacity Building Assistant.

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