Cynthia Reeders became homeless during her junior year at Marshall High School. She was kicked out of her home in January 2011. Then she lived in 16 different places, never staying longer than three months.
“I carried my clothes in trash bags,” she said, telling her story at the first “Turn on the Lights” event of community guests and board members of the Determination Initiative Growth Success (DIGS) Teen Transitional Living Program on Thursday, Nov. 8, at the R. Wilson Brown Room on the MVC campus.
Despite the hardship, Reeders persevered to graduate from high school and is now residing in Kansas City. She said that a place
for homeless teens in Marshall would be great. It could “help them finish school, talk about their problems, and get a job,” she said.
DIGS board members Lindsey Parton, MayAnn Piper, and Heather Troth spoke about the effort to find a house, the fundraising possibilities, the statistics for county homelessness, and the goals.
Parton, who is also a social worker for Marshall Public Schools, said that a recent survey of Marshall High School students indicated that 41 students said they are currently or have been in the past in a homeless situation. She said students responded that, during their homelessness, they had stayed at motels, storage garages, public restrooms, in cars, and other places.
Needs of homeless youth can include housing, employment, mental health services, and furthering their education. The DIGS Transitional Living Program is a non-profit organization in Marshall that plans to offer long-term housing of up to 18 months for youth ages 16 through 21. The group hopes to find someone who is interesting in donating or selling a house for the project.
Troth, who is also an M VC assistant professor of Nonprofit Management, said the goal is to have a house for homeless students by August of 2013.
Fundraising efforts will include a run/walk in the spring and a silent auction. Sponsorships are also available, ranging from $100 to $10,000. For people interested in helping with the project or donating to the cause, call Parton at 660-886-7414 or Piper at 660-886-4662.
Homeless facts provided by the DIGS informational brochures:
Who are the homeless youth? Teens who have experienced abuse (physical, mental, emotional, and substance), teens of families living in poverty, teens who were in foster care (36 percent of youth age-out of foster care), teens living with mental health issues, and teens identified as having generational or problematic survival behaviors.
One in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away, and 75 percent of runaways are female.
Youth ages 12 to 17 are more at risk of homelessness than adults.
Between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth are identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.
Forty-six percent of runaway and homeless youth reported being physically abused, 38 percent reported being emotionally abused, and 17 percent reported being forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member.
Seventy-five percent of homeless or runaway youth have dropped out or will drop out of school.