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Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope by Kevin Ryan and Tina Kelley

Addressing Youth Homelessness in Our Community

On March 23, 2014 Richland Library hosted its second forum about youth homelessness in our community -- particularly those who are on their own and not homeless within a family.

We learned that the number of homeless youth in both Richland School District One and Richland School District Two has increased dramatically in the last year, while the resources available to them have not. For example, there are still only four beds available for unaccompanied youth at shelters in our community (at Palmetto Place), and the closest teen shelter is in Myrtle Beach! Richland School District Two has already identified 470 homeless youth this school year, with 115 of those being unaccompanied (85 unaccompanied youth were identified in Richland Two the previous school year).

To address the issue of youth homelessness in our community, United Way of the Midlands is currently conducting an assessment plan, which includes:

  • A thorough literature search of the national and local data on the number and demographics of affected youth, the needs of homeless youth, and best practices for housing, educating, and training homeless youth
  • An examination of other successful homeless youth programs in comparible southern cities
  • Interviews and surveys conducted with a wide range of homeless service providers, school officials, and other community organizations such as churches, the police department, and other nonprofits who also serve this population, as well as interviews with currently and formerly homeless youth
  • An inventory of potential funding sources
  • An analysis of community interest and ability to expand the capacity of existing services
  • All of the information gathered throughout this process will result in a final report containing a comprehensive record of existing services and resources for homeless youth, as well as a recommended course of action for building the capacity to address housing, education, and training for homeless youth in the greater Columbia area.

    For more information about this assessment plan, or to share information about existing needs and services, please contact United Way of the Midlands at (803) 733-7316.

    Below are some books and resources to help you understand more about the issue of homeless youth in our community.


    The Double Life of Zoe Flynn by Janet Lee Carey
    Amazon Says: Zoe Flynn has a secret. She used to live in California, in a big old house -- the best house in the world really -- at 18 Hawk Road. It rambled and creaked and was fu more...
    Amazon Says: Zoe Flynn has a secret. She used to live in California, in a big old house -- the best house in the world really -- at 18 Hawk Road. It rambled and creaked and was full of good hiding places. She used to have a best friend named Kellen who lived right down the road, and a dog named Merlin who loved to play with her. But now she lives in a little town in Oregon, and everything has changed. Now, Zoe has to be careful. Careful that she doesn't tell anyone, not her friends or her teacher or especially that cop who's been watching her, that she doesn't live at 18 Hawk Road anymore. That now her family lives in an old green van that's cramped and dirty and doesn't even work all the time. Zoe's always hoping that someday she'll find her way back home.... Lyrically written by Janet Lee Carey, The Double Life of Zoe Flynn is a moving novel about hope, family, friendship, and the true definition of a home. less...
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    Almost Home by Joan Bauer
    Amazon Says: Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer's new novel will touch your heart When twelve-year-old Sugar's grandfather dies and her gambling father takes off yet again, Sugar and her mot more...
    Amazon Says: Newbery Honor winner Joan Bauer's new novel will touch your heart When twelve-year-old Sugar's grandfather dies and her gambling father takes off yet again, Sugar and her mother lose their home in Missouri. They head to Chicago for a fresh start, only to discover that fresh starts aren't so easy to come by for the homeless. Nevertheless, Sugar's mother has taught her to be grateful no matter what, so Sugar does her best. With the help of a rescue dog, Shush; a foster family; a supportive teacher; a love of poetry; and her own grace and good humor, Sugar comes to understand that while she can't control the hand life deals her, she can control how she responds. less...
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    Money Hungry by Sharon G. Flake
    Amazon Says: Thirteen-year-old Raspberry Hill is always scheming about ways to make money. She's starved for the green stuff, and will do just about anything legal to get it-wash cars, sel more...
    Amazon Says: Thirteen-year-old Raspberry Hill is always scheming about ways to make money. She's starved for the green stuff, and will do just about anything legal to get it-wash cars, sell rotten candy, skip lunch, and clean houses. She is obsessed with making money, having money, smelling money, and touching money. Raspberry is determined that she and her momma will never be homeless again. When they are approved for a Section 8 move to a nice house in Pecan Landings, Raspberry thinks things are looking up. But after their apartment in the projects is robbed, and protest by the rich folks in Pecan Landings force them out of their new house, Raspberry must do everything in her power to keep her world from crumbling. less...
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    Can't Get There from Here by Todd Strasser
    Amazon Says: Her street name is Maybe She lives with a tribe of homeless teens -- runaways and throwaways, kids who have no place to go other than the cold city streets, and no fa more...
    Amazon Says: Her street name is Maybe She lives with a tribe of homeless teens -- runaways and throwaways, kids who have no place to go other than the cold city streets, and no family except for one another. Abused, abandoned, and forgotten, they struggle against the cold, hunger, and constant danger. With the frigid winds of January comes a new girl: Tears, a twelve-year-old whose mother doesn't believe her stepfather abuses her. As the other kids start to disappear -- victims of violence, addiction, and exposure -- Maybe tries to help Tears get off the streets...if it's not already too late. Todd Strasser, author of the powerful and disturbing Give a Boy a Gun, again focuses on an important social issue as he tells a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching story of young lives lost to the streets, and of a society that has forgotten how to care. less...
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    Amazon Says: Just two hours ago, I had been heating up some lentil soup at my mom’s in Brooklyn, thinking I’d eat it and maybe read some Edith Wharton before bed. Now here I was at a r more...
    Amazon Says: Just two hours ago, I had been heating up some lentil soup at my mom’s in Brooklyn, thinking I’d eat it and maybe read some Edith Wharton before bed. Now here I was at a runaway shelter, staring at a nun’s mustache and wondering where I was going to spend the rest of my adolescence. At fifteen, sick of her mom’s spineless reactions to abusive men–and afraid of her stepfather’s unpredictable behavior–Janice Erlbaum walked out of her family’s apartment and never returned. What followed that fateful decision is the heart of this amazing, fascinating, and disturbing memoir. From her first frightening night at a shelter, trying to sleep in a large room filled with yelling girls, Janice knew she was in over her head. She was beaten up, shaken down, and nearly stabbed by a pregnant girl. But it was still better than living at home. Just like that, she was halfway homeless, always one step away from being sent “upstate to Lockdown.” As Janice slipped further into street life, she nevertheless continued to attend high school, harbor crushes, even play the lead in the spring production of Guys and Dolls. She also roamed the streets, clubs, bars, and parks of New York City with her two best girlfriends, on the prowl for hard drugs and boys on skateboards. Together they scored coke at Danceteria, smoked angel dust in East Village squats, commiserated over their crazy mothers, and slept with one another’s boyfriends on a regular basis. Janice Erlbaum paints a wry, mesmerizing portrait of being underprivileged, underage, and underdressed in the 1980s, bouncing from shelters to group homes, from tenement squats to legendary nightclubs. A moving and tremendously entertaining ride through the seediest parts of New York City, Girlbomb provides an unflinching look at street life, survival sex, female friendships, and first loves. less...
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    Amazon Says: The unforgettable inspiring memoir of one extraordinary doctor who is saving lives in a most unconventional way Ask Me Why I Hurt is the touching and revealing first-person ac more...
    Amazon Says: The unforgettable inspiring memoir of one extraordinary doctor who is saving lives in a most unconventional way Ask Me Why I Hurt is the touching and revealing first-person account of the remarkable work of Dr. Randy Christensen. Trained as a pediatrician, he works not in a typical hospital setting but, rather, in a 38-foot Winnebago that has been refitted as a doctor’s office on wheels. His patients are the city’s homeless adolescents and children. In the shadow of one affluent American city, Dr. Christensen has dedicated his life to caring for society's throwaway kids—the often-abused, unloved children who live on the streets without access to proper health care, all the while fending off constant threats from thugs, gangs, pimps, and other predators. With the Winnebago as his moveable medical center, Christensen and his team travel around the outskirts of Phoenix, attending to the children and teens who need him most. With tenderness and humor, Dr. Christensen chronicles everything from the struggles of the van’s early beginnings, to the support system it became for the kids, and the ultimate recognition it has achieved over the years. Along with his immense professional challenges, he also describes the trials and joys he faces while raising a growing family with his wife Amy. By turns poignant, heartbreaking, and charming, Dr. Christensen's story is a gripping and rich memoir of his work and family, one of those rare books that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. less...
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    Amazon Says: The stories and poems of actual homeless children--including fourteen-year-old Kareem, who lives in a city shelter -- depict the reality of homelessness in America, illustrati more...
    Amazon Says: The stories and poems of actual homeless children--including fourteen-year-old Kareem, who lives in a city shelter -- depict the reality of homelessness in America, illustrating what it means to be deprived of the things most people take for granted. less...
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    Amazon Says: The stories of four among hundreds of runaway youths treated in Slesnick's program illustrate points in this volume, which offers a summary of the information known about runa more...
    Amazon Says: The stories of four among hundreds of runaway youths treated in Slesnick's program illustrate points in this volume, which offers a summary of the information known about runaway and homeless children and teenagers. In addition to describing the breadth of this problem, this book explains different types of runaway and homeless youths, and why they leave home by choice or are asked to leave. Slesnick also explains some of the factors common to these children and their families, as well as what happens to the youths when they leave home. Direction and support are provided for parents from this clinical psychologist, who notes that there are few resources and programs across the nation designed specifically to help families with runaway youths.Told by a parent and three runaways themselves, the stories of four people trying to understand the causes and cope with the afte- effects of running away serve to illustrate research results and issues presented here. This work will be of interest not only to parents of runaways and to mental health professionals, but also to students of adolescent psychology, family psychology, and clinical child psychology. less...
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    Joseph by Shelia P. Moses
    Amazon Says: For Joseph Flood, life is tough. Tough because of Mama's addiction to drugs and alcohol. Tough because Daddy is away with the army fighting in Iraq. Tough because it looks lik more...
    Amazon Says: For Joseph Flood, life is tough. Tough because of Mama's addiction to drugs and alcohol. Tough because Daddy is away with the army fighting in Iraq. Tough because it looks like there's no way out once you're living in a homeless shelter in a North Carolina ghetto neighborhood. And tough because Joseph is enrolled in yet another new school where he doesn't know anyone and has to keep what's going on in his life a secret. Joseph struggles to keep Mama clean and to hold their broken family together while trying to make new friends and join the school tennis team. Can a boy who's only fifteen years old win his daily battle to survive? Joseph is a powerful and moving story from the author of National Book Award finalist The Legend of Buddy Bush that looks at what it really takes for a boy to begin to become a man. less...
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    Boulevard: A Novel by Bill Guttentag
    Amazon Says: A teenaged runaway fights for survival on “the boulevard of broken dreams” in this searing debut novel based on a true story. It’s always sunny in California until you w more...
    Amazon Says: A teenaged runaway fights for survival on “the boulevard of broken dreams” in this searing debut novel based on a true story. It’s always sunny in California until you walk on the wrong side of Sunset Boulevard. And yet the bright lights still call to thousands, and every day new arrivals fill the ranks of Hollywood’s underworld of teenage runaways and hopeful stars turned hookers and strippers. Their stories are too wretched and too sad for society’s attention, but when a high-profile lawyer is murdered at the Chateau Marmont, lackluster detective Jimmy McCann takes to the streets and finds himself enmeshed in this complex web of prostitution and drugs, learning that the killer, a young girl named Casey, is a victim in her own right. Delving into Casey’s troubled community of homeless runaways, characterized by abuse, rape, death and disease, but also by friendship, loyalty and love, Bill Guttentag has crafted a stunning literary crime novel—based on real-life incidents—that will resound with readers everywhere. less...
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