Do you even wonder how kids end up on the street? Are they runaways? Are they disobedient? Did they do something to get kicked out? Do they deserve it?
A friend of mine works with homeless youth in my city. I have to admit that at first I surprised to hear that we have homeless youth. We’re not that big a city, we’re considered a “bible belt” community. Our streets are clean, crime is low and the truth is that we have thousands of homeless youth. Your city has them too.
In talking to my friend the stat I can’t get out of my head is that close to 80% of street kids have a living parent. In the vast majority of cases the parent got a new partner and when the partner didn’t want the kid around, the teen got kicked out.
A tragic, common tale
Talk to people who work with street kids and you’ll hear the same story over and over. They’ve been abused physically, or sexually, and when they try to tell their blood parent what’s happening, the parent accuses them of lying. Self defense is seen as a violent streak and the teen hits the streets while the happy couple builds a new life together.
In article for CNN this morning one street youth, an 18 year old named Belle said, “People think it’s a choice to be on the streets, but it’s never a choice.” According to the article, her story is tragically common:
She said she has been sexually abused since she was 6 years old and was in and out of foster care until recently.
Now, she is living in a camp with other homeless kids, hiding from her pimp.
“Yeah, it’s not a house, but a house isn’t everything,” she said. “Family. Love. Friends. This is my family. All I ever wanted was a family.”
She has been selling herself, not by choice, simply because she doesn’t have anything else to give. They’re just kids. They shouldn’t have to make choices like this. There is supposed to be someone there to get after them to do their homework, to tell them to eat their greens, to hug and tell them that their heart will heal.
Support changes everything
I remember my first year of university there were days when my heart was breaking. I’d pick up the phone and my Mom, three thousand miles away would listen and tell me that she loved me. She’d remind me that she and my Dad pray for me every single morning and she’d always point out that they were three time zones over which meant that I had been prayed for every day before I even got out of bed in the morning. I was 19 and trying to figure out how to be a grown-up and knowing that they were there for me made all the difference in the world. I cannot imagine going it alone, much younger, with far fewer resources.
What can we do for these kids? The church is supposed to be a family, are their ways for that family to include these kids too? My niece volunteers at the same youth shelter my friend works at. I asked her what she does when she’s there and she said, “Mostly I just listen. I listen and I hug people and it helps.” I need to find time in my schedule to listen.
One very practical way you can help is to become a teen mentor with TruthMedia. Our teen community is often overwhelmed with questions from teens in all sorts of situations. They want an adult’s opinion, they want someone to listen and they need to hear about Jesus. Teen mentors go through the same application and training process as all TruthMedia mentors with one extra step. The law requires a criminal background check for anyone volunteering with youth. Our mentor co-ordinator can walk you through the background check, it’s quick and pretty simple to do.
You can learn more and sign-up to be a teen mentor at thementorcenter.com To apply to be a teen mentor be sure to check off the box for teens and our co-ordinator will walk you through the rest of the process.
Upcoming online chats: Join us for daily online chats! One of our features will be “Delay Is Not Denial ” on July 15 at 10:30 am EDT Please join us to discuss how taking time to think does not mean you aren’t going to do it.