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Highlights by D. Sharon Pruitt via CC 2.0 license (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/3332032044/)

Help for Homeless Youth

Q: Where is the closest teen homeless shelter? A: Myrtle Beach

Q: How many homeless youth attended Richland School District 1 last year? A: 1,220

Q: What is the high school graduation rate for homeless children in South Carolina? A: 25%

These are just a couple of alarming facts we learned at Living on the Edge: Youth Homelessness in Columbia. On Sunday, November 17th Richland Library kicked off National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week with a panel discussion and community forum about this often-overlooked population. We had an audience full of engaged citizens who are passionate about making our community a better, safer place for these youth who are falling through the cracks -- and a lively, informative discussion.

If you want to help our homeless youth find stability and a brighter future, there are many opportunities for sharing your time, talent, and treasure.

The United Way of the Midlands Homeless Youth Fund , created in collaboration with the Salvation Army, provides emergency financial assistance to families at risk for homelessness, so their children can have a more stable educational environment. Last year, the program provided assistance to 123 families from Richland School District 1, Richland School District 2, and Lexington School District 2.

Local shelters serving homeless youth, such as the Columbia Family Shelter and Palmetto Place publish wish lists of their most needed items. Instead of, or in addition to, donating holiday toys this year, consider providing some of these staples to help keep homeless families clean, healthy, and well fed.

And no matter what skills or interests you have, you can likely put those to work in a meaningful, impactful way. Check out the wide range of volunteer opportunities with the Family Shelter, Palmetto Place, and St. Lawrence Place. The United Way's Get Connected site is also a great resource for finding volunteer opportunities, in-kind needs, events, and board opportunities with most of the area's nonprofits and charitable organizations.

The United Way of the Midlands is serving as the clearing house for information surrounding this forum and the issue of youth homelessness. They will soon be adding additional information to their website, uway.org.

Don't miss the follow-up program on Sunday, March 23rd for continued discussion about solutions for reducing youth homelessness in our community. This will also be held at Richland Library Main, 1431 Assembly Street.

Living on the Edge: Youth Homelessness in Columbia
Sarah G. Says: A short video clip from the November 17 program Living on the Edge: Youth Homelessness in Columbia
YouTube Says: There's been a lot of recent attention on homelessness in Columbia, primarily focused on the visible adult homeless population, and concerns about the effects of homelessness ...
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  • 2013 Homeless Point in Time Count
    The SC Coalition for the Homeless directs this single-day census of people experiencing homelessness.
  • Midlands Area Consortium for the Homeless
    MACH addresses homelessness by promoting collaboration among 60 agencies in the Midlands of SC, including state and local governments, corporate and nonprofit organizations, and faith-based entities.
  • Parents and Students Succeed (PASS)
    Information and resources for homeless students in Richland School District 1
  • McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act
    McKinney-Vento provides federal funding to states for the purpose of supporting district programs that serve homeless students, ensuring immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless youth. Each school district has a homeless liaison who facilitates access to school services, including transportation to and from their school of origin if it is in the child's or youth's best interest.
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