By: Dayshia Stratton
According to Arizona’s Department of Education, there are as many as 29,537 homeless youth in Arizona. In the Phoenix metropolitan areas, the homelessness of high school and college students is unfortunately high. Since the numbers of youth is so high and there is a lack of help provided to them, Homeless Youth Connections was created. Homeless Youth Connections (HYC) was created to help the homeless youth within the phoenix metropolitan areas by providing hygiene products, school supplies, legal documents, along with making sure the youth are off the streets.
“HYC understands that a lot of the public overlooks the homeless. They also understand the fact that homelessness is not just a physical state of not having a place to stay, but that it is also a process that can destroy people. It is a slippery slope that ends in misery, depression, drug addiction and even death. It is especially taxing on the youth when their formative years are spent surrounded by all these terrible things, they get isolated and self destruct,” said Blayne Whitt, the chairperson of HYC.
HYC helps out the youth in their program by providing programs that benefit the student. One thing that HYC provides is Group on Thursdays. Now I know that when Group is heard, your mind might think of group as in AA meeting type. However, it is like an extra support system from kids, like a group therapy session.
“Group is a safe place for us students to feel free to speak our minds and speak from our hearts and we won’t be ridiculed for it,” said Allie Patterson, a student in HYC. It is also a place where all the students are able to laugh, cry, joke, and talk to others without any fear. The students meet up at the HYC office in Avondale for two hours. The whole time is spent with other kids their age (high school and college students) that understand and support what they are going through. Within the group of kids, a support system is created because everyone welcomes each other with open arms and only wants the best for them.
“I feel great strength and perseverance when I see people from Group getting together, kids who had to stand some of the most stressful and miserable tests of their lives,” Blayne Whitt said. The students grow a connection with each other and they help each other build courage. Most students who go to Group become really fond of the way it turns out. Most the employees want their students to go continually. “I believe in what peer group can do and how it helps my students,” said Kayla Mccullough, one of the employees at HYC. The students of HYC have support from the caseworkers like Kayla.
The staff of HYC care deeply about their students and making sure they have everything they need provided to them, like the necessities of life and school supplies. The staff care about the student’s academic career also and want to make sure that they graduate and they help you plan life out for once you get out of college. Host family houses are also provided. Kind individuals open their arms and offer their house to a student to help provide for and support them. The staff provides and believes these are important for youth to have.
“By meeting these basic needs, we can give students the foundation and structure to finally be able to focus just on school, which is truly their only job as a youth, to graduate,” Kayla said. HYC also helps to provide other things than just the necessities to their students. “[We] look at gathering necessary life documents like obtaining birth certificates, ID cards, and other documents,” says Kayla. “We provide case management to students, offering to help them enroll in assistance programs like healthcare and food assistance. We also help with planning after college.”
The staff at HYC care deeply about their students and want the best for them. The staff believes in being able to turn a difficult life around and make it better for the children that are in their programs. HYC has helped make the lives of teens who could not control theirs better. The future does not seem as scary and difficult as it did before HYC stepped in for kids like those in this article, including me.