Teen Homeless Rates Rise; Local Volunteers Search for Teens to Get Them Off the Streets

Teen Homeless Rates Rise; Local Volunteers Search for Teens to Get Them Off the Streets

A recent study by the organization, Homeless Children America, show the number of homeless teenagers has gone up nationwide.

Locally, there is a similar pattern.

A group of volunteers from a teen homeless shelter in Kennewick is doing its part to get these teenagers off the street.

The group hiked through Zintel Canyon in hopes of reaching out to homeless youth.

They hope to offer them snacks, toiletries and direct them to My Friend’s Place, the Tri-Cities’ only teen homeless shelter.

Daisy Vargas, the shelter’s supervisor, said Zintel Canyon is popular for teens to camp out in.

The group looks for signs that someone was living there, like tents.

“They are either leaving it there for somebody else to use or they’re going to use it when they come back at night,” said Vargas.

When contacting teens in the past, one volunteer said the interactions have been surprisingly positive.

“We approached some kids and it’s surprising how welcoming they were of us,” said Corazon Noyola. “They thought it was really cool what we were doing.”

Statistics from the State Superintendent’s website show in 2008, there were 176 homeless teens in Kennewick, in 2013 that number went up to 299.

Pasco went from 240 to 373 and Richland 31 to 91.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, some causes of homelessness among youth are family problems, economic problems and residential instability.

Morgan Baberlack who was homeless through most of her teenage years said she and so many other kids on the streets with her simply had no other choice.

“They are just lost and there are so many kids that their parents just don’t care,” said Haberlack. “They are into drugs and they are just really immature parents, they can’t take care of their children.”

The group wasn’t successful in making contact with any teens this time, but they hope the homeless teens will find the hygeine packages, take down the address of the shelter and go there before taking an offer from a dangerous person on the streets.

“When they’re sitting there in the cold and don’t have anywhere else to go and somebody comes up and offers them a place to sleep on their couch, they’re going to take that invitation and when they end up on the couch, other things are asked for them to do,” said Vargas.

The group attempts street outreach once of twice a month and with the winter season approaching, it hopes to get as many teens off the streets as possible.