In 2018, more than half a million Americans had no fixed address. That kind of life can be extremely difficult for adults, but it is even harder for the young. 7% of the homeless population is younger than 25 years old and living without parents or guardians. In the time in their lives when they most need care, comfort, and security, over 36,000 children, teenagers, and young adults have little or none.
Homelessness remains not just a plight, but a blight on the United States. There are ways to fight back against the conditions and circumstances that bring people of all ages to this state. On top of that, there are ways to support and protect people currently enduring that experience. One excellent way is to support or even volunteer with organizations devoted to these efforts. Today, we will spotlight one such group, StandUp For Kids, which focuses on that 7% of the homeless population arguably most in need of care.
What is StandUp For Kids?
StandUp For Kids is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing outreach and services for some of the most vulnerable members of society: homeless youths. Volunteers — who fill almost every position, including leadership — work to offer services that assist children in these precarious situations. They also work to prevent others from reaching that point. Their mission statement: “Ending the cycle of youth homelessness.” Their method: “one youth at a time.”
The organization was the brainchild of decorated naval officer Richard Koca. You will no longer find his name on its website because of his 2013 convictions for abusing his power to sexually assault minors. StandUp For Kids decided not to let Koca’s vileness destroy its legacy. Instead, it has grown past its founder, committing to its ideals of protecting children from conditions that leave them vulnerable to predators like him.
Programs and Practices
StandUp For Kids is notable for operating four major and valuable programs that can benefit homeless youths up until they turn 25. All of them tackle distinct aspects that contribute to the issue as part of a multifaceted strategy for lowering the homeless rate.
- Outreach Centers
Outreach centers are facilities through which StandUp For Kids can provide a variety of different services to the community in which the center is located. These buildings are designed as safe environments where homeless kids are welcome to get out of the outdoors for a while.
Here, they can grab a warm meal, participate in activities, make phone calls, send and receive mail, and more. They can even look for employment and find other helpful programs through referral services.
- Street Outreach
There are instances when StandUp For Kids does not have the resources to build and maintain an outreach center. Street outreach is a viable alternative. Instead of bringing homeless youths to their resources, volunteers can bring the resources directly to them.
More specifically, they identify “hotspots” where homeless youths are known to congregate, then make regular visits to these locations. Children and teens can receive food, counseling, and information on where they can find even more resources.
- Mentoring Program
Homeless youths, by and large, yearn for better lives. Outreach, both in centers and on the streets, can do much to alleviate the harsher aspects of homelessness. The mentoring program takes things further by offering a means of escape from life on the street.
In this program, individuals work with two volunteer mentors to make plans and reach goals. Counseling gives mentees a safe space where their needs can be met. These resources also work to steer them away from drug addiction, gang membership, and other issues to which many homeless people are vulnerable.
- Housing Program
The housing program run by StandUp For Kids does two important things. Firstly, it gives assistance to homeless youths in finding a place where they can live. Secondly, it gives them continued counseling and other resources, so they can keep that room over their heads.
Getting out of homelessness is one thing, and staying out of it is another. Young people are especially susceptible to falling into a vicious cycle. By providing food, furniture, clothes, housing stipends, and all kinds of support, this program is designed to give them greater stability.
Where Are They Located?
StandUp For Kids has its headquarters in the Georgia city of Decatur, just a few miles from Atlanta. Despite what some may fear, people do not have to live in either of those cities to receive support. The organization offers at least one of its services across the contiguous United States:
- Outreach centers can be found in Chicago, Houston, Worcester (in Massachusetts), and Washington, D.C. Four different parts of California — San Antonio, Oceanside, Orange County, and Silicon Valley — also have their own.
- Children and families in Houston and Worcester can get housing support, while those in Atlanta, Silicon Valley, and Chicago can receive mentoring. Volunteers in Olympia (serving for all of Thurston County in Washington) and San Antonio can provide both services.
- San Diego, Orange County, and the Virginia town of Hampton Roads stand out for offering all three services.
The nonprofit cannot always build an outreach center, offer a mentoring program, or provide housing services — at least, not right away. Despite these limitations, they still strive to extend their reach by sending out volunteers for street outreach. They offer this form of support in 18 cities and counties spread across 11 states and the District of Columbia. These locations include all of the ones mentioned above, as well as Miami, Tucson, Denver, Cleveland, and Seattle. These efforts are part of their goal to reach as many youths in as many places as they can.
How to Help
With nearly 40,000 homeless youths in need of help, StandUp For Kids is always looking for volunteers and donations. If you can provide either, they and the people they serve will be most grateful.
Here at No Love 4, we donate every cent of every purchase to a charity of your choice, including StandUp For Kids (one of our top ten children’s charities). As a reward, you can get a stylish shirt or sweater proclaiming your support for homeless youths, or for any cause you want. We are proud to help our partner organizations and our customers make the world a better place.