Getting Teen Homelessness Out Of The Shadows | Bremerton , Washington | Bremerton Patriot
During the summer months, Jo Clark is hitting the local garage sales to find good deals. The deals aren’t for her — or anyone she knows.
Clark, executive director of StandUp for Kids in Bremerton, is searching for essential items, such as warm coats, for homeless kids who may not have them.
“I encourage an attitude of empathy rather than scorn, especially since it’s becoming so prevalent,” Clark said of teen homelessness.
The Bremerton chapter of StandUp for Kids started in Kitsap County in 1992 and was resurrected in 1998 when Clark joined. StandUp for Kids is a national nonprofit spread across 28 states in the country that supports homeless and at-risk youths.
Although not always easy to calculate the numbers of homeless teens since some do not identify themselves as being homeless if they are crashing on a friend’s couch or find shelter for one night, Clark said numbers are “definitely on the rise.”
This school year, Clark’s organization provides meals for 20 homeless students in two Bremerton schools while last school year they were serving 14. The group also provides 180 healthy snacks daily and 13 Kitsap Transit bus passes a month for homeless youths. Teen homelessness is not only a problem in Bremerton but in North and South Kitsap as well, Clark said.
“Homeless happens everywhere,” she said.
They come into homelessness for various reasons. Some could be drug and alcohol related, others could be a lack of an adult role model and on the rare occasion they are kids leaving home to lessen their parents’ burden of feeding them, said Clark. A lot of the kids go to school without eating breakfast — some having to even skip dinner the night before, she said.
“How they handle it, I really don’t know,” Clark added.
Each year the federal government requires all states to conduct homeless counts and the report for 2011, which was conducted in winter 2010, states that 108 of 633 homeless Kitsap County families have children. The number of households without adults — kids identifying themselves as homeless — was three, said Phedra Elliot, with Kitsap Continuum of Care Coalition.