As Greg Smith, StandUp for Kids former National Executive Director, explained, “Within the first 48 hours on the streets, a teen is approached by someone soliciting drugs, and one in three is lured into prostitution.” In America, 4.2 million youth and young adults experience some form of homelessness every year (50% for the first time), from couch-surfing to sleeping on the streets or in a shelter. Smith added, “Oftentimes, young people are abused in their homes, and when there is nobody to help, they flee. Some youth feel as if the streets are their only alternative. We can prevent a lot of tragedy if we intervene early and give them the resources they need to get on a pathway from surviving to thriving.”
Starting Friday, April 23 at 5 p.m. and ending Sunday, April 25, StandUp volunteers across the country will hit the streets for 48 consecutive hours in search of homeless and at-risk kids, between the ages of 12 and 24, to distribute food, clothing, hygiene products, resource information, and referrals. Local programs will organize activities and hands-on projects for volunteers and youth to target the needs in their community. Maria Verastegui, StandUp Board Vice-Chair, shared, “Our volunteers are warriors – out on the street day and night, they go where the kids are; to be there for them, to be the ones they can trust to help.”
Beyond providing youth with basic needs, StandUp becomes a strong support system through mentoring, career counseling, financial planning, and goal-setting strategies for long-term progress. Laura Ann Smith, National Board Chair, noted, “Every day our staff and volunteers work to build relationships with vulnerable youth, affirming their worth and showing them an alternative future.” RJ, a youth now working and attending college, said StandUp “was able to help me build back my character traits and a sense of trust. They help me feel better and help me remove many of the negative actions I used to do. It's like a new life."
Operating almost entirely on volunteers and donations, StandUp has expanded its efforts to end homelessness to 20 cities nationwide. To find out more, visit www.standupforkids.org.
About StandUp for Kids: StandUp for Kids is a national non-profit organization dedicated to ending the cycle of youth homelessness in local communities like yours. Without the stability of home or family, young people under 25 are vulnerable to a range of negative experiences including exploitation and victimization, and they face devastating barriers in life, hindering their ability to re-assimilate into their communities. Since 1990, StandUp has cared for homeless and at-risk youth by transitioning them from crisis to connection. StandUp’s efforts are geared to help “one youth at a time,” giving youth a sense of safety, hope, and belonging through housing support, mentoring, drop-in centers, and street outreach.