A Story Of ChangeFred and Angela at Rise Up 4 Change seen a urgent need to provide services for Homeless/Foster and GLBT youth. No story is the same. Youth homelessness is a more serious issue than most people know. It is likely that a teen in your neighborhood is living with a parent in a car at Walmart parking lot, sleeping on couches at friends’ houses, or staying on the street.
Fred and I visited a homeless shelter because we wanted to know more about the families living there and the causes of them being homeless. We were quickly educated that day by some of the staff and residents that sometimes, hard times happen to the best of us. We learned that children do not just wake up and decide, “I think I want to be homeless starting today.” One teen may have parents who lost their home because of unemployment, injury, or illness. Another may have a caretaker who struggles with addiction. A teen may run away from home because of sexual abuse or violence. There is no one reason for why youth experience homelessness. There stories and situations vary from person to person.
Fred and I never forgot about the homeless teenagers that we talked to who were reaching out for help they all seemed to have this unforgettable sadness in their eyes. Fear in their voices. They are not criminals; they are the victims of homelessness. We felt the need to do something and provide the basic necessities, volunteer and offer our time and resources without cost and create a safe environment of acceptance and respect among the most vulnerable and forgotten population to reach out in love without judgment and help to improve a youth’s self-esteem. Families, peers, and social service providers often reject homeless/ foster and LGBTQ youth, which deeply impacts their self-esteem.
A high number of GLBT and foster youth experience homelessness may face discrimination and misunderstanding when accessing services and in need of resources. When youth feel accepted and safe, they can begin to heal from repeated rejection and build relationships with providers. Staff can foster this feeling of acceptance and safety by respecting a young person’s goals. “It’s important to have a space, where people can have an open conversation about who they are and where they came from. It’s also important to have zero tolerance around discriminatory and hateful speech. What we notice here is mutual respect.” Rise Up 4 Change staff made a commitment to not only respond to their needs but assured them that they will never walk alone. We gave birth to “Rise Up 4 Change” youth program in 2013. Change Begins With Us!
We’ve been successful to provide needed services to over 3500 disadvantaged/ homeless youth by creating safe spaces for them to express themselves by creating an environment in which they feel comfortable talking and sharing in group sessions, empowers them to make positive choices at school, at home and in their communities. Our focus and goals are to stay connected with our youth after completion of the program to keep track of their successes.
Our instructors have a special ability to successfully engage youth in workshop activities and discussions—something that can be difficult to achieve with many adolescents. RU4C helps youth make meaningful changes in their lives. Over 94% of students have improved artistically, academically, school attendance and in life skills - evidence of change taking place within our youth and their life paths.