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All across the nation, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) is leading a project to facilitate inter-agency collaboration and services supporting homeless youth. In 2014, NAEHYC conducted a needs assessment of youth experiencing homelessness right here in Detroit. The assessment surveyed youth between the ages of 16 and 24 and found that the top three barriers they were facing were access to transportation, clothing, and jobs. In response to the survey and its results, NAEHYC organized a task force to address issues faced by homeless youth, known as the Detroit Task Force on Youth Homelessness.
The Task Force has members from a wide range of programs and services for youth, including schools, youth agencies, homeless coalitions, law enforcement, public policy makers, and many others, who are led by youth from the community. “The Task Force’s main goals are to bridge the gap between the three main barriers youth face and to spread awareness within the community. We try to bring everyone together at the table to provide resources, initiatives, and local policy at a grassroots level to respond the needs of the youth,” Courtney Smith, Detroit Youth Task Force Coordinator and AFG Youth Board Member, explained.
On June 13, the Task Force held “Pedal For A Purpose” to raise funds and awareness around the top barrier faced by youth experiencing homelessness: transportation. The day started with 15 Eastern Michigan University students, alumni, and Ypsilanti locals biking from Ypsilanti to Detroit. After the 40-mile bike ride, the bikers concluded their journey at a community event held here at Alternatives For Girls! Approximately 60 people attended the community-wide awareness event, which include a youth panel discussion facilitated by Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, a speech about youth homelessness in the community from Judge Perkins, and a screening of the film “The Homestretch”.
“A big highlight from the event was the youth panel. What better way to speak about the needs of youth than with the youth themselves? They are the experts in their own lives. Watching the young people come together and have the courage to share their lives with strangers, it was really touching,” Courtney shared. Following the panel, Judge Perkins spoke the importance of supporting young people within the community, through mentorship, and also stressed the importance of not let youth in need fall by the wayside. Finally, the documentary “The Homestretch”, which follows three homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future, was screened. “One young woman shared that the film opened her eyes to things she didn’t even know existed,” Courtney shared.
So far, the event has raised over $1,000 to support access to transportation for homeless youth. “The money raised will go towards providing bikes and transportation options to homeless youth. Because of the conversations we had with services providers and the popularity of bikes in Detroit, we decided to focus on donating bikes, but it really depends on what the service providers needs are,” Courtney explained.
“It was so great to see youth and older people come together for a common cause. There was a lot going on June 13 and for people to come together to raise awareness, it was great and very heartwarming to see that,” Courtney shared. “And we are very thankful that AFG was able to help and host the event. Being an AFG youth board member, it was an honor to be able to help in this way.”
Be sure to follow the Task Force and like them on Facebook to stay up-to-date on their events. If you would like more information or have any questions, contact Patricia Julianelle, NAEHCY’s Director of State Projects and Legal Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Courtney Smith, Detroit Youth Task Force Coordinator, at email@example.com.