It is getting cold out there. The leaves are turning and falling. There is talk of rain and people are pulling out their coats, sweaters, scarves, and gloves. For many of us our minds automatically turn to Thanksgiving and we begin planning dinners and get-togethers.
But, many of our neighbors are without warm shelter, or clothes, or even food. That is why November has become known for two other events which you may be unaware.
November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. According to the East Oakland Community Project, there are nearly 2,000 homeless youth (ages 14-23) in Alameda County alone. The issues that lead to so many youth being homeless is wide and varied, but can typically be boiled down to 1) abuse and or neglect in the home, and 2) discharge from foster care due to “aging out” of the system. These are kids that we, as a society, have let down. And, now that they are homeless they are far more likely to be victims of violence, trauma, and trafficking.
The second event is National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (HHAW) and is held each year the week before Thanksgiving. This year it is November 11th-19th.
BOSS is doing our part by supporting homeless youth through several programs. The one that begins addressing contributing factors early is the Children’s Learning Center (CLC). Through the teachers and volunteers at the CLC we work one-on-one with homeless school-age children to comprehend and complete homework, ensuring better success in school, and a better chance of graduation. We also engage in constructive play through art, crafts, reading, computers, and exercise!
The Sankofa House is a Transitional Family program and is part of the Ursula Sherman Village. We provide long-term family housing where parents and children live together in safety.
The Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program works with Berkeley High School, Berkeley Technology Academy, and Berkeley Youth Alternatives to identify 20 local youth (ages 14-24) who are overcoming barriers and leading their community, caring for their families, and working hard to the the very best they can be.
Finally, we have our South County Permanent Youth Housing Project, or just Meekland. This is a permanent youth housing program with supportive and wrap-around services for youth ages 18-24. We give them a safe place to be and decompress. Then we work with them to address health and mental health issues, and eventually to find life-supportive, living-wage careers!
There are several things you can do to help homeless youth. The first is volunteer!! VolunteerMatch is great resource to find an organization that you can work with — BOSS is always looking for people to help out too! You can donate goods! New and gently used clothing is always in high demand, as is bedding, personal hygiene, and general household goods. You can donate funds!!! There are so many options for donating funds to BOSS! You can make a one-time general donation, a donation to a specific program, or even recurring donation! You can donate through our Crowdrise page, if you prefer! There are workplace giving programs such as the Combined Federal Campaign (Code 29959). The easiest, and cheapest way to donate is through Amazon Smile! You shop, just like normal, pay the same prices for gods, and Amazon donates a percentage of your purchase amount to BOSS! Whatever works for you and your budget!
So, this month, wear a purple ribbon, volunteer if you can, donate is you’re able, and spread awareness of the homeless and hungry in our communities!