”We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and cared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” – Mother Teresa
This quote is still relevant today, especially when teen homelessness is concerned. Thankfully, the folks at A Way Home America, Rapid Results Institute, and HomeBase have come up with a solution to end teen homelessness, dubbed the 100 Day Challenge. This is not the first year for the challenge. In 2016 cities like Cleveland and Los Angeles saw much success, some even exceeding expectations. For the 2017 kickoff, which happened on August 1, five new cities have been tasked with the mission of tackling teen homelessness. Baltimore, Maryland, Columbus, Ohio, Hennepin County, Minnesota, Louisville, Kentucky, and Palm Beach County will embark on the 100 Day Challenge until November 8.
A Way Home America consists of local and state public sector organizations, advocates, researchers, young people, homeless youth providers, and philanthropists. The Rapid Results Institute is a non-profit organization founded in 2007 that creates a transformative and sustained impact on societal challenges dealing with homelessness, in addition to working with several partners and government agencies. Lastly, HomeBase is a non-profit public interest law firm that has been providing services to homeless people for over three decades.
As mentioned before, Florida’s very own Palm Beach County has also decided to participate in the 100 Day Challenge. Sadly enough, the statistics in our community are mind-blowing. For instance, West Palm Beach has the largest homeless population in Palm Beach County, with an 11.5 percent increase in homeless individuals from 2015. According to the Homeless Coalition of West Palm Beach, our county ranks second in Florida for children living in spaces not conducive to human habitation.
“The main thing was to help 100 youth in 100 days. Each city chose their own amount,” said Dylan Brooks from the Compass Center, he also serves as a team leader for our county. “For us, our goal was to help 141 people in 100 days with an emphasis on people of color and individuals that identify as LGBTQ.”
“Sometimes I feel like my skin color and my background stops me from getting people to even pay attention to me,” said Fabiola, a 17 year old from Lake Worth. “My parents and I came here from Haiti three years ago, we have moved plenty of times, even though we don’t have it all together, we manage to make it happen, it’s tough though sometimes.”
On a national level, there are many reason for teen homelessness, one being a shortage of affordable housing. The average minimum wage job pays $8.10/hr, so that means that if you work a minimum wage job, and you want to live in a one bed room apartment, you would have to work a total of 104 hours a week in order to survive accordingly (Homeless coalition of Palm Beach County). Other reasons for teen homelessness in America include poverty rate, challenges of single parent homes, racial disparities, and traumatic past experiences. Youth homelessness can be broken down into many sub categories. One of the most popular is the LGBT teenager. Did you know that 40 percent of homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBT?
“LGBTQ homelessness can stem from a variety of things. Like being kicked out because of sexuality. No two kids are alike when it comes to being homeless,” mentioned Dylan.
More often than not, homeless LGBT youth around the country face many obstacles when it comes to finding shelters that accept them, much less make them feel comfortable. By bringing awareness to the 100 Day Challenge, LGBT homeless teens will less likely be victims of abuse, violence, even bullying from their heterosexual peers. There are several organizations and sponsors in Palm Beach that are actively participating in the 100-day challenge, including Adopt-A-Family, Youth Services, Vita Nova Inc, Gulfstream Goodwill and Compass Community Center.
The 100-day challenge is just evidence that the community is trying to recognize its shortcomings. Hopefully, after the 100 Day Challenge we can report about young people receiving housing. “Reach out! You are not alone in this situation. There are people out there that can help you,” Brooks said passionately. “Don’t give up, even though we know the system is a little flawed.”