Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Karma is a homeless youth in Salt Lake City, Utah. Like many homeless youth, he was wary of being photographed or filmed. His demeanor was kind and gentle. But I could see, after speaking with him for awhile, that he had already begun to develop the thick skin needed to live on the streets. His canine companion played fetch happily around us, paying no attention to our filming.
I have noticed a strong bond between homeless youth and their animal companions. It is part of the street code, they told us, to make sure their "mascota" (animal companion) is fed even before they are. And when the animals get hurt, youth often surrender all of their "spange" (spare change or cash), to ensure the animal gets some form of medical attention. They are this protective and nurturing with one another as well. It is peculiar and amazing to witness such continuous and genuine love among groups of youth who have been kicked out of their own homes.
Karma talked to us about the need for homeless youth to know how to defend themselves and the need to stick together for protection. "This is my family now," he told us, "We do whatever we can to stay out of trouble and keep one another safe."
When we asked what the main dangers were for homeless youth, Karma mentioned a safe place to stay at night and harassment from law enforcement. It is the same for many other homeless youth. The top 5 dangers we hear from homeless youth are:
1) Finding a safe place to sleep at night.
2) Police harassment and brutality.
3) Non-homeless youth and adult sexual predators.
4) Street culture (i.e. drug abuse, alcoholism, survival sex, violence, etc.)
5) Other homeless youth and/or older homeless.
It is imperative, in our opinion, that safe housing be established for America's homeless youth immediately. It is unacceptable to us that these youth remain living outdoors for even one more day. It is also essential that the organizations that are working hard to provide shelter and other basic needs to these youth, be adequately funded and backed by effective legislation. If for ANY reason a "prominent" community of the United States suddenly became homeless, our country would make certain they were housed within a number of hours. We need to show this same equality to everyone in America - homeless or not.
What does the homeless youth epidemic in our country say about America? And who would we be without the ability to casually look away from our neighbors obvious pain and hunger?
Would we see ourselves in them? Would this make us want to help them or to shut down and run away? These are all important questions that deserved to be answered.
We can make a difference. With the help of these homeless youth and the organizations that serve them...... we will show you how. Please spread the word about Homeless Youth Pride Walk, so that we can shine a light on this epidemic. Stay tuned for effective ways you can reach out to your local community and national organizations that strive to end youth homelessness in America.