By Kendra Hopkins
The number of homeless teens in the Springfield area is on the rise as the holiday season approaches, and many organizations such as Rare Breed are looking for volunteers and donations to help them meet the needs of these homeless students.
Rare Breed is a non-profit organization and they are constantly looking for donations. Samantha Sudduth, the Coordinator of Emergency Shelter and Rare Breed, said that they are always taking donations of hygiene products (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.), clothing (socks, pants, jackets, shoes, etc.) and volunteer hours.
“Usually, the holiday season is the busiest for us—typically October through the winter months,” Sudduth said.
Sudduth said that they have an outreach program that provides basic necessities for about 80-90 teens that are living on the streets and they also have a housing program that provides a clean bed and hot meals for about 17-23 youth each night.
“The biggest thing that we try to provide for our clients is a solid relationship that is built around trust,” Sudduth said.
Darren Myers, a counselor for the OTC Middle College program and who also works as a crisis counselor, said that the leading causes for homelessness that he sees are a lack of resources, a rise in drug and alcohol use, natural disasters, and not having a stable income.
“A lot of times we see cases of self-imposed homelessness which is when 17 or 18 year olds move out on their own,” said Myers.
Myers also said that there are resources and organizations set in place to help these students, such as the OTC Foundation and Care to Learn funds.
An article by Adrienne Green in The Atlantic states that during the 2013-14 school year, more than 1.3 million students experienced homeless, which is a 7% increase from the previous year and an all-time high.
Green reported that, while homelessness in schools has gone unrecognized for so long, starting this year school districts will be required to disaggregate the graduation rates of homeless students for the first time in history, which educators say will help states and districts direct resources to the kids who need help the most.
“Students who don’t have a stable place to go after school and at night are more likely to do poorly in class and more likely to drop out of school altogether,” Green wrote, “which means they are less likely to go to college, to find good employment, and to lead productive adult lives.”
Local news outlets show that Springfield faces the same challenges. According to a Springfield News-Leader article by Claudette Riley, the Springfield R-XII school district had 807 homeless students at the beginning of the 2015-16 year.
While there are so many homeless students in the Springfield school district, Riley’s article highlighted one silver lining: because the district is aware of these students, it can try to provide as many resources for these families as possible.