Did you know that here in the US everyday 13 kids die on the street everyday? Below is my experience with Stand Up for Kids. Follow the link if you'd like to donate hygiene products, food products, bus passes, First Aid products, phone cards, gift certificates, new or gently used clothing (you can make bags as a group or family) I'd like to keep food & hygiene bags in my van to pass out during the outreaches. Bless you, Alida w5 http://www.standupforkids.org/news/videos.aspx?video=4
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Tonight I went to my first street outreach with SUFK (Stand Up For Kids, a nationwide organization) to help homeless street kids. If interested, Go to http://www.standupforkids.org/ to find a group in your area to volunteer (or donate).
"Volunteers go to the streets in order to find, stabilize and otherwise help homeless and street kids improve their lives. Our focus goes beyond street outreach and extends to deterrence and resource programs that we provide in schools and via the internet. But all facets of our mission are guided by the mandate that our volunteers shall tell kids they care about them and then, at every point, prove it."
These kids are incredible. It's heart breaking listening their stories. The volunteers are some of the most compassionate people I've ever met. I'm so impressed by them. I hope to learn from the knowledge they've gained. It takes a special person to do what they do. These kids are sweet but can be a little rough around the edges. I was feeling pretty nervous about attending. A really neat thing for me is that we met at a coffee shop right in front of the same apartments I lived at after my mom kicked me out on the street at 17. The coffee shop used to be an Irish bar. Now it's a coffee shop we met at to bless homeless youth! The way the Lord wove all the details together is so amazing. I can tell you that at 17 on my own trying to hold on to what little hope I had, I never imagined that 13 years later I'd be OK and helping out kids in my same situation. The main kid I spoke with uses the same bus I used to. I knew EACTLY how he feels knowing that you are responsible for every single thing in life. There's NO ONE to help or to catch you if you fall. NO ONE to lean on, NO ONE TO HELP, NO ONE TO CARE if you end up a doctor or an addict, a criminal or a scientist. I've been there. I remember how it felt being rejected and abandoned. I'd work 50 or more hours a week and go to school full time and at times wondered what the point of it all was.
S shared his story with me. He was in foster care and adopted by a family at age 6. His mother went to jail for being on drugs when she had him and he remembers visiting his father in jail. Unfortunately when he turned 18 he was kicked out onto the streets. He hasn't yet even graduated. ( my husband later shared that he had many friends that were adopted or fostered but were kicked out on the streets right when they turned 18 too!) I wonder what these parents think that says to these children. The sad thing is that many of these kids are 18 physically, overly mature in other ways, but they are often years behind academically from being moved from home to home, school to school. They tend to be behind emotionally and often cognitively as well. Its' hard enough for children in a loving home to go out into the world without falling back on their parents a few times before they can finally stand on their own two feet. Imagine how hard it is, the immense difficulty it takes to make a life for yourself with being behind, having nothing to fall back on, having no support whatsoever. Add to that many of these kids get tickets for BEING HOMELESS! ( can you believe it)? They call it loitering, a crime.
The counselor asked me to share a bit since our upbringing was similar. I told S that it dawned on me one day that "I DIDNT HAVE TO DO THE SAME THINGS MY PARENTS DID. Just because my parents were criminals didn't mean I was going to be. Just because they did drugs didn't mean I had too." S admitted that he did try drugs occasionally. We encouraged him to consider the future and to ask himself before he did anything if it would help him accomplish his goals. I told him about not letting the past or a bad mistake cause him to get off track but to do the "Next Right thing." He agreed he would try though he said that is difficult in his situation. There are 3 main ways a person survives on the streets. 1) selling drugs, 2) stealing, 3) prostitution, begging as well. That doesn't help you meet whatever goals you may have. The consequences of such actions often times puts you at odds with the life you hope to make for yourself. This dashes any chance you may have of a future when you are in survival mode and just struggling to make it day to day. S is a hero to me because even though he lives ON THE STREETS he stays in school. In HIGH SCHOOL. His parents didn't even wait until he graduated before they kicked him out. Do you remember how high school was? How mean kids could be? How hard it was to fit in and figure out who you were? Imagine doing this all while not ever having enough food to eat and sleeping in a park! Picture it being cold, rainy, frightening sleeping out in the elements. Anyone can attack you as you sleep. Do you think you'd go to school well rested and ready to do your best all while having a grumbling belly? Folks, this isn't Africa or South America, or some street kids in Russia, this is here in the USA.
As "S" began sharing with me his struggles and his dreams for the future ( to join the army) and how he really needed to pass each and every final he had this week I can't help but be proud of him. Many kids would have given up. I also worry for him. He has a daunting task ahead of him. There are the life goals, his dreams, then there is the stark reality of all that is needed to accomplish this dream. He HAS to pass every single class and he hates his school, kids can be cruel. He lives outside, at times he gets in trouble as he runs with the wrong crowd. That wrong crowd does drugs. Everything is hard for him as he lives day to day without basic necessities. He's birth certificate is at one place, his clothing and school books are at another persons home. He has a job. He holds up signs to attract business to his store. To even pick up the check is an hour walk or so. SUFK will provide him with a bus pass from the donations he receives. They also give him a couple fast food cards, a hygiene bag and food bag. The one he got before had soup that needed to be microwaved. He shared he was unable to eat it as he doesn't have access to a microwave. He has a court date tomorrow at the same time as his finals for a ticket he couldn't pay. If he doesn't go to court he'll have a warrant, if he misses class he'll fail the final. It's January now. "S" will have to have incredible discipline and not make any mistakes to make it until June to graduate. He'll have to work exceptionally hard. Harder than most. I admit it seems impossible and even unfair. But something tells me not to count him out just yet. God worked wonders for a broken little 17 year old girl 13 years ago, He can do it again... with a little help.