Group brings awareness to homeless issue

More students should get involved to help homeless teens and families

Caitlin Riley, Producer, SFHS Media

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In the United States, just under 554,000 people were reported homeless in 2017 by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Of those people living on the streets, 42% are under the age of 25. This information is heartbreaking because there are many people around us who are homeless, but we can’t tell because they hide it so well.

Last year, I help found a group of students who are trying to do their part in educating the community by bringing awareness to the issue.

The Homeless Awareness Group (H.A.G.) hopes to bring awareness and educate people on the issue of youth homelessness. Elizabeth Gehrke and I were guided by two counselors, Jill Salo and Eve Kahldal.

At first Gehrke wanted to create the group a because she was looking for volunteer opportunities to help homeless youth in our area.

“But you have to be 18 or older to participate in those,” she said. “I still wanted to do something to help out so I created H.A.G. to help out in any way I could.” Together, we worked with Salo and Kaldahl to bring this idea of helping the homeless into reality.

As the staff member involved with the group, Salo believes she has gotten a lot out of helping the group.

“I think it’s helped me better understand that the struggles of youth acceptance, discrimination, and abuse at home impact an entire community,” she said.

Last year, H.A.G held a Sleep Out in the SFHS gym to raise money for Hope 4 Youth, a local homeless youth resource center located in Anoka. At the Sleep Out, multiple students went to the gym overnight to learn more about homeless people and how they survive being homeless.

The students listened to two speakers. The spokesperson from Hope 4 Youth explained what how the $300 they raised would be used for the youth that rely on the resource center. The other speaker, Brittany, was a homeless woman who has five kids. After the speakers, the students had some active experiences about what it means to be homeless. The students were split up into 4 “family” groups, and they got supplies to build a shelter and every couple of minutes they had to pick a card. On the card, there would be a positive or negative thing that could affect how their shelter would be built. Another hands on moment came when they got to pick a bag and got either trash or food. Finally, they made blankets to donate to Hope 4 Youth.

At the end of the night, everyone slept on the gym floors with mats, while others stayed awake, simulating the real experience of being homeless on the streets.

I believe having more schools should have a group like this, and I hope more students get involved this year. The issue of homelessness isn’t going away, and this is an amazing opportunity to help others by, donating money and food, learning how to help, and informing people about this serious issue.

For more information about getting involved, contact Jill Salo in counseling office.

“I think it’s helped me better understand that the struggles of youth acceptance, discrimination, and abuse at home impact an entire community.” – Jill Salo

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