Homeless youth need help now

By Julia Hechler

Obviously we all know that homelessness is…bad. I don’t need to go on about the estimated 22,410 unaccompanied youth who run away or experience homelessness in Minnesota every year, 8,740 of whom are homeless for six months or longer. There were 156 youth who were turned away from a homeless shelter in Dec. 2007 in the metro area alone. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the young people who don’t have a house due to abuse or a large conflict they have at home, due to the lack of adequate housing, due to being kicked out because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Because I know you know.

So then, why does it seem like we don’t know? When you look at our state’s policies and funding, it makes it appear like we don’t realize just how bad it really is. Why is only $1 million going toward the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act?

The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act: in 2006 it allowed people up to 21 years old to be thought of as youth (as opposed to only those18 and under). It got $1 million for ’08-09, but it needs $7 million more.

Young people who experience homelessness are physically or sexually abused at a rate two to three times higher than that of other youth. Homeless youth need support. Fifty-eight percent of unaccompanied young people attend school. They need encouragement and mentors. Homeless youth don’t have clean clothes. They need clothes.

It’s cold outside. They need a shelter.

Even young people in foster care over the age of 18 get sick. Our state doesn’t help them. Forty percent of other states do. Youth in foster care leave once they’re 18. How many of us have been back home since we came to college?

The Ready To Launch Act needs to be passed as well; the state needs to provide guaranteed medical assistance to people up to the age of 21 and to allow them to remain in or return to foster care if they still need assistance.

I guess we know this and it would be easy to blame our representatives (do they really think they’re representing us?). Because obviously they know that we Mac students are pro-helping out those less fortunate than we are. We voted this election, after all.

So yes, we voted this election. But part two of the process means using up as much of the remaining juices from our Election Day roar as we can.

There will be enough to go around until the next representatives are elected. We voted, and now they have to listen to us (they won’t be able to get our vote next time otherwise.)

So let’s do this now. The economic crisis is elevating stress and decreasing home ownership. We have a new President and a new legislative session.

Let’s do it Tuesday. There’s a lobby day and you will get to meet your representatives and let them know exactly how you feel, because they do need to be reminded. Their job is to listen to us and our job is to tell them.

Join us next Tuesday, Feb. 10, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (or earlier if you have to get back) for the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group’s (MPIRG) Affordable Housing and Higher Education Lobby Day, sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.

Support Runaway and Homeless Youth Act funding.
Support the Ready To Launch Act.
Call your representative.
Be Active.