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The Cold, Hard Truth...

Yakima Chapter participant, Benjamin Allen at Rod’s House in Yakima, Washington Yakima Chapter participant, Benjamin Allen at Rod’s House in Yakima, Washington

What comes to your mind when you see a stranger walking down the road covered in dirt, hand-me-downs that seem to have one too many years of use, and shoes that seem to have walked around the world a half a dozen times? Do you avoid them? Do you feel pity? Do you worry for your own safety? The number of homeless people — and homeless youth — is increasing as each day passes by. I have had my fair share of the “street life” and it was definitely one of the most regretful choices I have ever made.

I was on the streets for a little less than a year, beginning in Yakima, WA and the struggle to survive was more difficult than I had expected. The most difficult piece of experiencing life on the streets is finding a safe place to live and food to eat. Many times, I had no choice but to resort to starving, or occasionally going to the local mission to eat and sleep in a room with a bunch of older homeless folks. Towards the last couple months of 2010, I had moved to Everett, where I thought I could land myself in a better place and pick myself up and get my own life going. Many times, I had to sleep in the back of an abandoned car, and occasionally was helped by one of my friend’s parents in paying for me to sleep in a clean and sober home. Eventually, I gave up the life in Everett because things did not improve for me.

I would suggest that if there is a community with a rising number of homeless teenagers, the best option is to provide a community-run organization that can help with job resources and training, food and clothing.

I moved back to Yakima and got involved with “Rod’s House,” a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, and school supplies to homeless youth between the ages of 14 to 21. I had been there many times before my trip to Everett, and the people there genuinely cared about helping homeless youth. They are only open for a few hours a day, but in all the time I had been involved with them, right now they have been more successful than ever. Rod’s House has partnerships with a few local drug treatment centers and they also offer employment training.

I have changed in so many ways since I was eighteen years old, and I could have never done it without the support from my very closest friend and the staff at Rod’s House. I would suggest that if there is a community with a rising number of homeless teenagers, the best option is to provide a community-run organization that can help with job resources and training, food and clothing. The longer a young adult lives on the street without support, the less likely they are to grow and become a responsible adult. Of all homeless people, the youth who end up on the streets need to have that support and available resources so that they can navigate the responsibilities of living the adult life.