Local non profits team up to end youth homelessness
A group of local non profits are taking on a big challenge to help end youth homelessness. It's all part of the 100 Day Challenge and today (9/7) leaders from Austin, Cleveland and Los Angeles are meeting to set some goals.
Instead of making big plans, the groups are focusing on the smaller things that will help teens and young adults get their lives on track. Youths like Christopher Williamson.
Williamson knows the Austin streets better than most people. That's because he has to find a place to sleep every night and it's difficult.
"No matter where you go, there's always no trespassing and there's always cops telling you to move or they'll cite you and take you to jail," Williamson says.
Williamson became homeless while attending the University of Texas. Due to a mix of financial and relationship issues, he soon found he out there looking for his next meal.
"No matter where I go I usually get stared at and people always to judge. Whether or not I have baggy clothes or stink people always judge and they don't realize what we've gone through," Williamson says.
Williamson is just one of the more than one hundred homeless youth in the city of Austin. But he's lucky enough to have found LifeWorks.
LifeWorks is a non profit working to help youth and young adults achieve self sufficiency in housing, mental health and education.
Executive Director of Lifeworks Susan McDowell says, "Our youth have grown up as victims. many have grown up and aged out of foster care to no support. We are talking 20-30 foster care placements (with) no full support in their life and they have most likely been the victim of abuse (or) the victim of crime."
The group hopes to end youth homelessness by 2020. To accomplish this they provide a good support system to these teens and young adults. They set them up with a church, a mentor or an organization that will help provide a safe space. But first comes the 100 Day Challenge.
Different non profits will come together to identify an issue that perpetuates youth homelessness.
"Very often as a community we develop very large plans that either get implemented or they sit on the shelf. This is a different approach, this approach says pick one thing, get the right people around the table, including our youth, and solve it.," McDowell says.
They will be looking at things like how they can keep those who age out of the foster system from going to adult shelters.
Teens need special programs to help them get back on track which is the kind of change that Williamson has been hoping for.
"These youngest they need all the help they can get. We cherish everything we get here. We're very grateful and we're always overjoyed whenever something new comes in for us," Williamson says.