Youth Homelessness Does Not Look Like Adult Homelessness. So Why Develop Plans The Same?

Okay, sit back. Pour a glass of wine. Grab a blanket.

About to have my way with this entire homeless youth debacle in Central Florida.

Let's try and make this as simple of a solution as possible for our so-called community leaders, decision-makers, administrators and elected officials.

Without having them scratch the dandruff out of their heads. Trying to piece this all together for our young people.

Because of some of us have been here for 2 years.

 Looking at our out-dated, ineffective, wasteful and atrocious homeless youth plans.

Trying to purify stupid.

Stay with me. Anyone with a child can follow this. If you do not have a child, borrow a close friend's child throughout this post.

Let's start with childhood trauma.

Childhood trauma is at the crux of our homeless youth problem in our community. And it is going to require a community solution.

It’s a parent dying. It’s divorce. It’s living in an abusive household.

It’s being sexually violated. It’s being neglected. It’s seeing your mom be abused. Or a sibling.

It’s living with a person who is constantly depressed or mentally ill.

You know, the (bleep) up stuff no child should have to go through in their life.

At a local elementary school in Southwest Florida, more than 88 percent of its families qualify for some sort of pub­lic assistance.

Many of their students are in foster care. Many are homeless.

Last year, 13 of their students experienced the death of an immediate guardian. These kids grow up. In foster care.

And leave foster care into our homeless youth population. Carrying with them, all of their childhood traumas and experiences.

For our homeless youth, you can feed him breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pay their electric bill. Pay their cell phone bill.

But what’s really needed is for them to be taught about self-reliance. The importance of economic freedom.

The dignity and discipline of standing on your own damn 2 feet.

Community involvement by working and paying taxes. Working for free with a local business if you can't find a job. And turning that free work into a job opportunity.

Made available through formal partnerships with local small businesses to make their next new hire a young person who has exited foster care. And in the meantime, one youth will intern without pay for the summer.

Learn the skills of that job while their rent is being paid for by local organizations. A mix of federal and state investment dollars. Sit down for a job interview at the end of the summer.

Made available through a formal agreement about the creation of new job interviews upon successful completion of those internships.

A community jobs program developed by those organizations that hold the federal/state contracted dollars into the multi-millions.

That has actual steady jobs available. Especially for our young people who have exited foster care and are homeless.

Yet this local school made some fundamental changes in their thinking. And in their approach.

And it all started with statistics. Data. Research. It's why I love what I do.

Data tells us how many teenagers are getting pregnant. How many homeless kids are graduating from high school. How many people are using alcohol and drugs.

Changes in the stats of our young people for the worse indicate a problem.

The stress of childhood trauma has physical manifesta­tions in brain development. Emily Lemieux. So while discipline actions such as detention might have their place, the approach a school takes on its homeless kids requires a paradigm shift.

And that shift requires the commu­nity as a whole: government, nonprof­its, school districts, chambers of commerce, businesses, hospitals.

Everyone at the table. And the community circles around our homeless youth. And figures out the life solutions on a local level.

Everyone pushing the rock up the hill. In the same direction. Together. Using the resources right in front of us.

Coordinated. Youth-centered. Trauma-informed. Positive youth development approaches.

Raising our kids, for Pete sakes. That's the job.

Does it make any sense to continue to send out parent-teacher conference letters to addresses in the school system when we know that kid has no involved available adult to him or her to attend?

Then know this fact, but choosing to ignore it. Because the federal government hasn't told us to act on solving the problem. The state hasn't told us the solution on how to fix the problem.

Does it make any sense to continue to send school professionals, community outreach workers, homeless youth providers, etc., to at-risk youth trainings when these out-dated trainings are not working for our kids?

Because the federal government hasn't told us to act on solving the problem. The state hasn't told us the solution on how to fix the problem.

So we sit here. Soiling ourselves. Waiting for the other adults to give us the permission like children that will allow us to come together to solve a problem for our kids.

Last time I checked, we're adults. Be the adult. Or remove yourself from the conversation. We'll come get you, when and if, you're needed.

What about social/emotional literacy training for our kids. Becoming aware of your emotions. And your thoughts. And how they play into the decisions we make in our social interactions at school or at home.

Learning how to teach our young kids how to sit down for 2 seconds and breathe when they get infuriated at school Or at home. Or frustrated. Or depressed.

Learning how to teach them how to take stock of their emotions. Becoming aware of them. Redirecting them in a positive direction.

How about we quit bull(bleep)ing them left and right. They know that there are investment dollars and resources available.

They know it's completely asinine to ask a homeless kid to accept referrals to 5 different organizations for help with 5 different problems in their 1 young life.

That's why they do not trust us. They will not participate in our asinine approaches. And if they do, they will tell whatever half-truths and false statements in order obtain whatever available benefit they can get their hands on.

And then move on to the next organization when the gravy train ends. And if confronted about it, will tell us that they did not set this up this way. We did.

So don't come at them with bearing the responsibility of finding jobs, finding apartments and getting into college, with little to no help from the adults, if the process is setup for them to do none of those things.

But to go from community referral to community referral. No one stopping and saying, stop. This is not working for our kids.

Learning how to let go of the guilt. The shame. The feelings of abandonment.

And channel them into self-reliance. Self-empowerment. Self-discipline. The power of positive thinking.

Giving their past the proverbial "finger". And a big "(bleep) you" towards programs who's main objective is keep them solely dependent on other people and government.

And never allow them to stand on their own damn 2 feet.

As you can see, I may not be good at this at all. And that may be true. And that might not be my personal part.

But as a community, each doing their part. And doing it well. It gets done for our young people.

Looking towards their young futures with strength. Hope. Joy. Pride. And dignity.

Economic liberty and true self-reliance through a part-time steady job.

Made available through formal partnerships with local businesses to make their next new hire a young person who has exited foster care.

Backed by letters of support from community leaders. And phone calls from our Representatives and Senators who's job is to represent the interests of our young people in the community.

Not shake hands and kiss bald babies all day.

Or enrolling full-time in vocational school or college. And securing an apartment with supportive services.

Made available through formal partnerships with high schools, colleges and vocational programs to come to a consensus.

No one (bleep)ing around.

To make their next cohort of homeless graduating high school seniors, homelessness no more. That practice stops. It ends. It gets done.

Backed by letters of support from our city and county elected officials to our landlords and property owners.

Who's elected jobs are to develop our communities that benefit all of its citizens. Not just the ones who use SunRail. Or live in downtown Orlando in high-rise condos.

Including the young citizens who have exited foster care and are now homeless in their communities.

Who are not paying taxes. Not voting. Not joining the labor market. Not helping to increase property values. Not creating new businesses.

Not becoming our next cohort of young doctors and pediatricians. And social workers. And teachers. And local business owners.

Not because it is their choice. It is because the first choice when they wake up everyday is to survive.

Food. Shelter. Safety. And when that is your life at 13 years old. 16 years old. 19 years old.

Self-actualizing is at the bottom of your list. And that includes some disconnected intake worker asking you about what your parents. Your siblings.

You're medical history. Where you work. Who you date. Do you steal for food. Do you exchange sex for a bed.

Or sexual habits. Or whether you're addicted to drugs or alcohol. Or ever been involved in domestic violence. Or whether or not if you've been incarcerated or involved in court proceedings.

When all you're doing is interviewing to try to get a freakimg safe place to stay at night. You're 16 years old for Pete sakes. Not 26 years old.

And none of those questions or factors have any empirical evidence to support that they are reliable indicators of permanent supportive housing long-term stability. None.

But we ask them at our intake assessments at our entry access points to determine eligibility and assess for best housing options.

Because that's how it is. That's how it's done. And call it trauma-informed. And youth-centered. Haven't provided 1 service yet to build back that trust with adults that have set on fire in the past.

Well, get over it. It's not working.

Community solutions drawn up by the adults in the community for our homeless youth.

That's the job. Just getting it done.