You will soon find that being a street outreach counselor is dramatically different from anything you've ever done before! National statistics report the number of homeless kids at more than 1.5 million. More than 500 thousand are still under the age of 15, and some are as young as nine!
As counselors we're going to go the streets and try to reach these kids! We are going to try and try again. We will walk the streets week after week never knowing the number of kids that we are reaching. We may never know, that a few years from now, a youngster was able to leave the streets because of the commitment and work we are doing today. Don't give up. They need us!
The single greatest need, for homeless and street kids is our continuous caring and real support. We must convince them that we care, we want them back, and we want to help them get off the streets.
A viable street outreach program is not solely concerned with finding homeless kids who are interested in staying in a shelter. While identifying kids, who may require shelter assistance, we must also provide support to those who, for one reason or another; (1) have to live on the streets, (2) aren't ready for more of the establishment, (3) are afraid to go to a shelter, (4) have a police record and fear incarceration or (5) are afraid that they will be sent home.
While the above is not all encompassing, we can now identify why kids will not or cannot enter a shelter at this time. However, they still require our assistance to insure that when they are ready, we will be there to help them get off the streets.
The definition of the word risk: danger, hazard, jeopardy, and peril. While these words may be realistically interchangeable, looking at them individually we find that; (1) danger is exposure or vulnerability to harm (2) hazard is a chance of being injured or harmed, (3) jeopardy is danger or risk of loss or injury, and (I) peril is a condition of imminent danger, exposure to the risk of harm or loss. Therefore, when we speak of "kids at risk" we are, in all reality, defining kids that are in fact in grave danger. Kids whose viability can literally be measured in the foreseeable future. Kids who are in desperate need of critical and immediate support if they are to survive!
Kids are living on the streets in major cities, small towns, and in most suburbs in the United States. But don't take living on the streets literally. Some kids manage to stay with other kids they meet in cheap hotels/motels, parks, and even in other states. However, many street kids are forced to live on the beaches, in the parks and abandoned buildings, on the streets, and in many other unsavory places.
To survive, kids make money by pan handling, selling drugs and shoplifting (survival crime), and hustling or prostitution (survival sex). Understandably, a street kid cannot survive on a daily basis while attempting to save enough money to make the deposit on an apartment. Remember, more than 500 thousand kids are still under the age of 15. No 15 year old can legally work or rent an apartment!
There are shelters in some cities. However, most of those shelters have no beds for homeless or street kids. But, for the sake of an argument, let's assume that each state can shelter 5,000 homeless and street kids. Now, if we had those 250,000 beds, we would still need another MILLION beds if we were to shelter every homeless and street kid who had no place to stay! To shelter every homeless and street kid, every state would need more than 25,000 beds.
If there's a youth shelter in your city, call them and ask how long a 15 year old can stay?
Now, we let you draw your own conclusions. Do you think that we'll ever have enough beds to protect every homeless and street kid? So, until that day comes, our commitment is to go to the streets and help as best we can, and never give up!
Street kids are just that: without a home or a guardian. While most street kids are living on the streets, some do come up with money to live in hotels/motels off and on. Mainly they live under bridges, in dumpsters, and just about anyplace you can think of.
Homeless kids are without a parent or guardian: they live in hotels, motels, apartments, or with friends. For some, they are just a breath away from becoming a street kid.