One out of every 3 homeless people in the United States is under the age of 18, totaling about 1.7 million, according to dosomething.org.
But students of the same age are trying to bring attention to the issue.
More than 70 students from North Hall High School organized “Hope for the Homeless,” an awareness and fundraising event Friday night aimed at making the community conscious of an issue the students see as critical.
And although the project started as a class assignment, the students have taken it to heart.
“I have some kids that have started volunteering as a result from taking that one step,” said Tessa Shirley, the student’s teacher at North Hall. “It’s becoming a habit that’s theirs instead of something they just had to do for a class.”
What the students have been working on since the beginning of the semester is identifying a social issue and build a project around it, with the capstone a community event.
The students chose youth homelessness and as a part of the project, joined forces with four organizations that fight to end youth homelessness in the area, state and world.
My Sister’s Place, The Covenant House, Street Grace and Give Us Names all will receive donations collected at the event.
“It gives me a great feeling about how we, as a class, can go out and show people what (homeless youth) deal with every night,” said Megan Maxwell, a freshman at North Hall. “And it breaks my heart.”
The goal was to raise $7,800 at the event, which included an awareness walk, speakers from each organization, entertainment and information.
The event will culminate with about 30 students spending the night in a makeshift homeless community, attempting to gain a little insight into the realities of living homeless.
“That’s probably going to get us closer to the situation,” said Hope Stephens, a North Hall freshman who will stay the night. “I bet you when I wake up in the morning, I won’t think about it the same.”
Attendees were glad to see such enthusiasm and energy from the students.
“I think that it is empowering for them,” said Sonia Rice, a teacher at Wauka Mountain Elementary School and a former Division of Family and Children Services employee. “It gives them the ability to have a say so in their community. I really just think the answers to the problems today come from them — they’re our future. It’s corny but true.”
And youth homelessness is a big problem. According to information passed out at the event, 500 girls a month are trafficked in Georgia. Most of those are runaways living on the streets.
“It is good to make people aware of the situation,” Stephens said.
Organizers hope the information will stick.
“It looks like people are having fun and are energized, I just hope in the end, once they see what these kids are doing, it provokes people to take their own issues and act on them,” said Shirley.
“You don’t know what seeds are being planted and you don’t know how they’ll grow. Tonight is a seed-planting night.”