God promises to never abandon us, to always love us. This is an amazing and powerful promise from our heavenly father, but not all youth receive that same love and care from biological parents. In the United States, there are hundreds of thousands of homeless youth who are not accompanied by family and do not have a consistent place to sleep at night. Many homeless youth come from families struggling with poverty, many are youth of color or part of the LBGTQ community. Most have experienced neglect or abuse in their lives. Knowing they have the love of God may be comforting, but it does not supply them with the earthly safety and stability that they deserve.
Homelessness among youth is also, at times, an invisible problem because not all homeless youth sleep on the street. Some couch surf and utilize shelters when space is available. Others try urban camping. Still others, if they can get enough money for bus tokens, will ride public transportation all night and try to sleep, especially if it is cold outside. Yet this transient lifestyle is trying, stressful and can be unsafe. Even if we are not confronted by the problem, addressing youth homelessness and taking steps to offer support is important.
MPR reports, “But while the problem of homelessness is ever present, there’s more help available now than five years ago, said Lisa Thornquist, acting director of Heading Home Hennepin.”
The Homelessness and Runaway Youth Act did provide federal funding back in 2003 to help community-based programs be able to offer shelter and transitional housing. StreetWorks is an organization that reaches out to homeless youth in Minneapolis and St. Paul to help them locate food, housing, life skills, medical care and clothes. They recently opened three food shelves devoted to serving homeless youth. Their vision is that “All youth have the opportunity to be nurtured, to belong, to be heard, to be valued and to have their needs met.” Because youth homelessness can be an invisible problem, StreetWorks has an outreach team that goes out to find youth experiencing homelessness to offer advocacy services.
Within God’s promise to never abandon us, I hear a challenge to not abandon each other. I was blessed to have two parents who loved me and provided for me. I had a warm bed, a full refrigerator and stable adults who raised me with consistency, safety, stability and encouragement. But for those youth who do not have unconditional love from their biological parents, we can become family for each other. We can support community-based organizations like StreetWorks specializing in offering effective support and care to youth in transition.