Alika Campbell, program coordinator of our Youth Outreach (YO!) and Transitional Living Programs, is featured in today’s Star Advertiser Island Voices section, helping raise awareness around YO!, National Runaway Prevention Month, and the issues facing at-risk and runaway youth.
Addressing a ‘Silent Crisis’ – YO! & National Runaway Prevention Month
By Alika Campbell
November 7, 2017
Between 1.6 million and 2.8 million youths run away in the U.S. each year. It’s what the nonprofit National Runaway Safeline, a leading organization assisting at-risk and runaway youth, is calling a “silent crisis.” Many of these youth have been labeled, stigmatized, disregarded, kicked out and thrown away. Adolescence can be a trying and traumatic time even without having to struggle with the immediate survival needs that come with life on the streets.
At the Youth Outreach (YO!) program in Waikiki, Hale Kipa and Waikiki Health have worked together since 1989 to offer a safe, nonjudgmental place for runaway, homeless and street-identified youth and young adults to seek help and make vital social connections. YO! assists youth with meeting basic needs like meals, showering, washing clothes or addressing a health issue. Importantly, we also provide a stable place for them to connect with trusted adults.
At-risk youth still have a great need for social belonging even if they have run away or are homeless. For some, social service providers are the closest they have to family at a critical developmental time.
Over the last 20 years, I have had the privilege to work with thousands of these youth and young adults. Even the most rebellious adolescent who thinks they know everything is, at heart, a scared and lonely individual looking for a place to belong and someone to value them for who they are. At YO! we try to do this by seeing beyond the behaviors and building each youth’s strengths.
We don’t often know the results of the seeds we plant, but with each interaction we have a chance to make a difference. I know YO! works because former clients visit occasionally to “check in.” Last month, someone who had been at the program 20 years ago came by to see if we were still around. He now lives in Florida with his wife and children and has a steady job.
This year, YO! has made 2,000 contacts with at-risk youth and young adults through our outreach services from January-July alone, and 2,800 total drop-in visits during that time at our Waikiki Drop-In Center. We also are working to expand outreach services to additional at-risk groups. Under a grant with the Susannah Wesley Community Center, YO! has recently strengthened its outreach to youth and young adults who may be at risk for commercial sexual exploitation or human trafficking.
During National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM) in November, Hale Kipa and Waikiki Health are working to raise awareness of the issues facing runaway youth throughout Hawaii. Partnering with the city to recognize NRPM’s Green Light Project, green lights will be displayed at Honolulu Hale from Nov. 8-14; a proclamation in support of NRPM in Hawaii will come Thursday.
The goals of NRPM are two-fold: To raise awareness of the runaway and homeless youth crisis and the issues that these young people face; and to educate the public about solutions and the role they can play in ending youth homelessness. The theme of NRPM this year is “Friends Helping Friends.” Let’s work together to ensure that these youth receive the support they need to transition from the streets to a more stable environment.
| YOU CAN HELP
Raise awareness of National Runaway Prevention Month:
> Shine a green light at home, or wear green.
TO GET HELP
Alika Campbell is program coordinator of the Hale Kipa Youth Outreach and Transitional Living Programs.
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