It’s back to school month! And in this article I will highlight the importance of schools as a resource for preventing youth from ending up on the streets. Becoming a homeless youth can start early and is often the result of an accumulation of many issues. Therefore, it is imperative that we start our prevention work as early as possible. Schools are perfect avenues for us to connect with youth who are most vulnerable and provide them the support they need to live normal teen lives.
I still remember what being a student was like. I did not have a family or a place I could call home. I struggled to meet my basic needs. The issues I dealt with outside of school made it impossible for me to live a normal teen life. I did not have any support to deal with my situation. As a result, I was unable to take advantage of the opportunities my schools had offered. It is for this reason I am now homeless; I was unprepared for adulthood. And any work that I do now to escape this instability makes me feel that I am making up for work I missed during my time in middle and high school.
Schools need to ensure all students develop into well-rounded individuals that are equipped with all that is needed to navigate through the challenges of life. We understand some youth face barriers that make this difficult. It should be the responsibility of schools to identify these students and give them the support they desperately need.
This will ensure these youths can play on the same field, get the same chances, and have the same outcomes as their peers. They will be able take advantage of the wealth of academic opportunities schools provide. They will be able to attend school regularly, focus and learn, participate in classroom activities, gain critical thinking skills, and earn good grades. These youths can also participate in social and extracurricular activities. They may join clubs and develop communication and leadership skills. They can play sports and maybe find a passion or a hobby. They will get the opportunities to make friends, and build meaningful and lasting relationships. They will build support systems that will alleviate their personal lives. They will also gain exposure to a range of subjects that may interest them to pursue a higher education. All of these things play a very important role in the lives of vulnerable youth and influence their success and future stability.
If our goal is to prevent and end youth homelessness, our focus has to be on youth who are most vulnerable and will likely end up on the streets. And there is no better place to find and identify these youths than schools. There is also no better time to reach out to them and change the path of their lives.