By Wm Rob Heinlein
In all of North County, there are only 10 beds for homeless youth, provided by the OZ program through the YMCA. This is not good enough and all of us need to look at the facts.This unseen population is getting very little attention, not just in North County San Diego but also throughout the state of California.
It is time for us as citizens to contact our local City Council members, and State Representatives and ask them to make this a priority. It is not only for the safety of the community but most of all for the youth, to provide an option other than the streets.
The State of California (California Youth Project) estimates 200,000 youth homeless in California in 2011 and 2,500 called the streets of San Diego their home on any given night. They, CYP have identified that there is only 53 programs providing 1000 beds throughout the state. This is not good enough and all of us need to look at the facts.
This unseen population is getting very little attention, not just in North County San Diego but also throughout the state of California. These youth can be part of GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender) Community, foster children, abandoned children, whose caregivers are no longer willing to take care of them or support them and those that run away from abusive situations.
These young people often escaped the abuse within families only to find abuse on the street and become the unwilling prey of sexual predators, the commercial sex trade (As shown in the April 18, 2011, NCT, Raid on the Travelodge where 30 female minors were being Trafficked), drug dealers, and gangs. This leaves the youth to survive with various implications that can turn to a life of crime and end up in incarcerated in a juvenile detention centers.
This cost to taxpayers can be anywhere between $50,000 and as high as $75,000 per year per person. In comparison, providing a shelter program with a number of services the estimated cost to the community would be around $30,000 per year for each youth. Not include the visits to the emergency room and mental health wards.
Recently while doing outreach at a local shelter in Oceanside, I was witness to a conversation between an intake worker and a 16-year-old homeless male who was asking about how to check in to the shelter. The worker informed him that he was not eligible to stay at the shelter. The difficulty is that this youth is underage and to be able to use the shelters through Interfaith Shelter Network an individual needs to be over 18 or in the company of their parent.
This seems to be a real issue, it is of great concern to me, and it should be to the community. The idea is to create a safe place that can offer these youth the opportunity to become successful and contributing members of society in these difficult economic times. The responsibility is ours as a society to take a proactive approach and work on developing a full-time shelter to address the issue of homeless in all areas of generations (seniors, youth, adults and families).
Wm Rob Heinlein,