The Pilgrim District Women's Association recently had an eye-opening discussion about the issue of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness, thanks to a presentation by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless (MCH) at their fall meeting.
“We learned so much. I don’t think anyone fully understood the extent of the difficulties unaccompanied youth who are homeless now face in their daily struggle to survive. Especially surprising was the impact on the youth who age out of foster care at 18 years old, who are on their own,” said Ruth Poole, Chair of Pilgrim District Women. “Now we have concrete ways of acting locally, as well as making a difference in advocating for the Coalition’s Bill “An Act Providing Housing and Support Services for Unaccompanied Youth, H.1862.”
An “unaccompanied homeless youth” is a youth or young adult under the age of 22 who is experiencing homelessness and is not accompanied by a parent or guardian. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates that nearly 6,000 high school students are homeless and on their own in Massachusetts. Thousands more unaccompanied homeless youth are not reflected in these numbers because they have already dropped out of school. According to the MA Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education statistics on the numbers of public school students experiencing homelessness in 2010, there were 365 identified children experiencing homelessness throughout the cities and towns in the Pilgrim Association, including 74 unaccompanied youth.
This past June, the 212th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference passed the “Resolution to End Homelessness among Youth and Young Adults in Massachusetts.” The resolution calls on church members to take action to end youth homelessness and to support House Bill 1862, An Act Providing Housing and Support Services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth. This bill, sponsored by Representative Jim O’Day, would ensure that unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness have the resources they need to remain safe and off the streets.
Sister Linda Bessom, the Faith Into Action Together (F.I.A.T.) Coordinator at MCH, explained to the Pilgrim District Women how they can help support the bill, and urged them to consider other ways of helping homeless youth, such as volunteering at Father Bill’s Mainspring in Brockton (one of the agencies working with unaccompanied youth), joining the MACUCC’s Task Team to End Homelessness, attending the Coalition’s Legislative Action Day on Feb. 29, 2012, or having individual churches participate in the 2012 National Hunger and Homelessness Week.
Other Associations, groups or UCC churches that would like to learn more about the issue of unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness or want to learn how to get involved, please contact Rev. Fran Bogle, the Chair of the Task Team to End Homelessness at 508-877-1217 or FBOG@aol.com; or Sister Linda Bessom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-595-7570 x18.