So the issue of homelessness is not something I have always given the most thought to... honestly. I have lived in LA and I now live San Francisco.
I live in a part of town that has a lot of services, free clinics, halfway houses and so forth. I am very much used to homeless as part of my day to day. The "picture" painted from this experience is one of middle-aged to older men and woman, many of which appear to have mental issues and / or drug related issues. You see this scene enough and it just becomes your "stereotype" of what it means to be homeless.
OK. So that sets the stage for where I jump to next. My brother came up for Thanksgiving and his birthday. We had a falling out some years back, so there was a solid time that we weren't close. I know during this time he went through a lot of stuff. Big and small. Serious and not. We were talking at Thanksgiving and went around the block and dropped off some homemade sandwiches to homeless in the neighborhood. We got to talking and he shared with me that he was homeless for a time. He talked at length about the psychological impact of literally being homeless. You can candy coat it and say you are in between homes... but hearing his stories of moving from place to place, night after night. Of trying to hide his situation from others by saying "Hey, you can just drop me off at the corner, I could use the walk..." just so that they wouldn't see him dive into the park to find the best secluded spot to try stay warm for that night.
And it was with this story that it reminded me of some very important facts I had happened upon almost a year prior.... numbers and stories and pictures that point to just how many youth / teens are homeless. This stands in stark contrast to my "stereotype" that I started this little share with...
I looked up the numbers again... and right now, there are over two million young people who face bouts of homelessness each year in the U.S. Most have been forced from their homes because of circumstances beyond their control -- my brother wasn't a teenager, but I think this applies in some ways to him as well. Some manage to make it through school but others are less fortunate, resorting to begging or prostitution just to survive. I am not trying to make this like an episode of Law & Order SVU, but this stuff really does happen. It is not just fiction. And homeless kids have different needs than homeless adults - they haven't even had a chance to live their lives yet. That's I think what is most interesting... so often we make stupid decisions when we are young. Think about those stupid decisions that you made. Think about the people and places you had around you to help you through those stupid decisions... NOW TAKE THAT ALL AWAY. Where does that leave you? What are you feeling and thinking right now?
That brings me to Covenant House. I have done some deeper reading and I have to say that I am impressed with their efforts. They are focused in the most urban environments -- where things are probably at their worst and the most people can benefit -- but they are growing with the support of friends and as they grow this issue shrinks disproportionately.
I support Covenant House. I support it in the name of people just like my brother. To give them a second chance. Because more often than not, when you do, they really do surprise you.