Washington State Advocates Seek Awareness About Youth Homelessness

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KGW) — Every year, millions of children, teens and young adults experience some form of homelessness in the course of a year, whether it’s couch surfing, sleeping rough or staying in shelters.

During National Fugitive Prevention Month in November, activists hope to raise awareness of the issue and drive change, from citywide proclamations to demonstrations of solidarity by lighting up storefronts green.

“It really is about elevating and amplifying the voices of young people across the country and shining a light on the challenges they face. not just homeless youth and runaway youth, but youth in general and youth who are experiencing really difficult situations and circumstances,” said Susan Frankel, executive director of the National Runaway Safeline.

In the homelessness discussion, advocates say that children and teens can be forgotten and that their reasons for housing instability are often different than adults.

“Most young people don’t leave home because they are bad children. They are getting out of difficult and bad situations,” Frankel said.

During the pandemic, Safeline saw an increase in calls from children and adolescents hoping to be connected to mental health services while contemplating leaving home. In both Washington and Oregon, many callers reported cases of abuse.

“The fastest growing group of young people we’re seeing seeking help from Safeline is between the ages of 10 and 14, and that in itself is probably one of the most alarming and disturbing trends we’re seeing.” Frankel said.

Since 2020, law enforcement in Southwest Washington, both Vancouver police and Clark County deputies, have reported a decline in missing and fugitive person calls, though the agencies see several hundred reports a year.

“The vast majority of the fugitive portion are children, adolescents,” said Sgt. Chris Skidmore of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

Dr. Gloria Arroyo and Lisa House, both business owners and mothers, chose a green light on November 17 to raise awareness for National Runaway Prevention Month by pledging to listen and help youth in crisis.

“Talk to them, listen to them,” Arroyo said. “It may not be his son, but it could be someone in his social circle or one of his son’s friends.”

“I wish [this] it gives a child a little bit of hope,” Houser said. “Maybe someone will see something and help them.”

Concerned teens and adults can call Safeline anytime at 1-800-RUNAWAY or visit the website for more information. In 2021, more than 25,000 people reached out to connect to crisis services.

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