Thursday, November 07, 2013

Together We Can #EndYH

Some youth want to stand out. They want to be different. They want to be known as the kid who’s really good at football, or wears funky shoes, or is not afraid to speak their mind in class. Others want to blend in. They want to move with the crowd, speak softly in groups, laugh at other kids’ jokes; basically get through high school unharmed and undetected. Whether they want to stand out or blend in or somewhere in between, no matter what kind of youth they are, they don’t want to be known as homeless.

Living and working in DC, you know what homelessness looks like. Whether you walk, commute, or ride the metro, you see the same familiar faces either pandering to pedestrians or keeping to themselves on your route to work. These faces of homelessness have become a part of your city experience. Those times you do drop a few cents into an empty Starbucks cup or the charity box in your local church, you see those faces being helped on the other side of your donation. And you should.

Then, there are the invisible homeless. The kids who just want to be normal, who are not ready to spare the little bit of pride they’ve earned, and who desperately just want to get through adolescence and somehow come out successful and stable on the other end. These 2,452 homeless youth were enrolled in DC public schools as of February 2013, and according to DC officials that number is rising.

Some of these youth may not ask for money, they may just take it because asking feels like they’re begging, just like the person they saw at the metro on their route to school. Other youth will keep it hidden until temperatures drop so low they are forced to seek refuge indoors, in places where they’ve heard horror stories of young men and women being raped or attacked in the shelters. Even then, during nights when hypothermia is imminent and sleeping outside is a guaranteed death trap, they can still be turned away from DC shelters.

While the issue of homelessness needs to be addressed citywide, during the month of November it’s this invisible homelessness that we must remind our community exists. Youth don’t want others to know they have no place to go at night and that’s understandable; they just want to be normal. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to show the DC Council the prevalence of youth homelessness and that there is a solution.

Throughout November, DCAYA urges you to take a stand to End Youth Homelessness in our city. By tweeting at councilmembers, local reporters, and social influencers, you are letting the youth of DC know that they are not alone and not forgotten. Read the Plan to End Youth Homelessness in DC and handwrite a letter to your councilmember, letting them know that this issue is important to you and that you expect them to seriously strategize and invest in youth resources. Together we can end youth homelessness in DC. Together we can #UnmaskYH to #EndYH.

Click on the following links to help join the movement to End Youth Homelessness in DC.

Plan to End Youth Homelessness in DC

E-Sign-On Letter

Personalized Sign-On

Pre-populated Sign-On Letter

Social Media Communications Strategy to End Youth Homelessness

YOUTH VOICES: Charmia Carolina

DCAYA would also like to give a major "Thank You" to Eddy Ameen and Susan Ruether. These two incredible youth advocates donated hundreds of hours to DCAYA and our member organizations, facilitating over a year of conversations, completing tons of research and authoring the Plan to End Youth Homelessness. We could not have done it without their endless energy and profound expertise and are deeply thankful to them for contributing so much to this effort.

Angela Massino is the Multi-Media and Communications Associate at DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. She believes through the power of storytelling, we may all understand the shared human experience and feel compelled to act on social injustices. Watch the video of Charmia Carolina, who shared her story of youth homelessness and disconnection so others may understand what it’s like to be a youth living in Anacostia, DC.

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