Homeless Youth

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A report will be released June 13 that addresses the problems and issues faced by homeless youth. Ken Lynch of Tumbleweed Tempe Youth Resource Center, which provides help for homeless youth, will discuss the report

Ted Simons: A report released today addresses homeless youth and education. It is titled hidden in place sight. Here to talk is ken lynch of youth resource center, which provides resources. As well as Tamara at the Maricopa County education service agency. What exactly did this report look at?

Ken Lynch: How homeless youth are disconnected from the school system. So an image comes to mind. One of the first things the report says is people need to change their attitude and idea of what homeless youth need. They discovered, as most of us already know, these are young people fleeing abusive situation, who come from backgrounds of neglect and abuse and who are homeless not by choice.

Ted Simons: It's interesting you mentioned the image and what people see with the image. The report calls student homelessness an invisible problem. Talk to us about that.

Tamela Franks: In some cases, they aren't. There's a stigma associated with being homeless. Homeless youth don't publicize that they're homeless as they go into the school room. They don't want that stigma attached to them.

Ted Simons: That's interesting because that makes sense. They're teenagers, they don't want them. How much are they suffering because of that?

Tamela Franks: A lot. They are missing out on a lot of resources, as well as supports in the school system and outside of the school system because they don't necessarily want anyone to know.

Ted Simons: Talk about the role of schools here in helping these kids

Ken Lynch: The schools are going to know probably before anybody else does. When you see homeless youth, they don't look any different than any young person does. But the schools, by federal law, have to be aware and have to provide services to young homeless people and make sure they're in school and provide avenues for them to stay in school so the schools are absolutely critical. What the schools can't do -- and they have -- to their credit, tried to address it, it's a matter of resources. What do you do outside of the school hours with young people who you know have no place to go? That's where organizations like tumble weed can help out.

Ken Lynch: What do you do with those kids? We have tumble weed and other avenues. That sounds like a sticky problem.

Tamela Franks: It is a sticky problem. Organizations like tumble weed who are experts in this area, if they can work with the school system to identify who the homeless youth are, they can refer them to the resources.

Ted Simons: As far as homeless students are concerned, the most common issues you hear and see? What's out there?

Tamela Franks: Allowing their records to transfer as they move throughout the system. So, they're highly transitional so if they move from one district to another, there's a lot of difficulty making sure that their credits are transferring and they miss a lot of school. There's a number of cases of just being able to be a seamless transition.

Ted Simons: That's interesting because I guess -- we talked about a homeless student here so the possibility of going to different schools, being uprooted from here to there. That's huge.

Ken Lynch: Everything they're dealing with before they get to the prospect of doing well in school -- the study pointed that out. The kids say we can't do well unless we have transportation, food, clothing. And critically, unless we have the emotional support and people behind us cheering us on.

Ted Simons: Is that emotional support, is it out there at all?

Tamela Franks: I mean, it is. And some districts do better than others. But that emotional support is so vital for them to be successful. What they're encountering is a lot of challenge and barrier instead of being a welcoming environment and saying, we're going to support you.

Ted Simons: I'm the principal of the school and you understand there are homeless students and I'm figuring it out. What do you tell me?

Tamela Franks: Well, I tell you that you have some homeless students in your school. There are a couple of things you're going to need. You're going to need support systems outside of the school, inside the school. Maybe a liaison. The youth isn't going to do it. They need someone inside of the school that is going to help them walk through those processes.

Ted Simons: The federal law you mentioned earlier, doesn't that say the school has to have a coordinator, a liaison?

Ken Lynch: That report talked about specifically what the liaison people say they need and the number one thing is community awareness. A lot of them won't identify as being homeless if they have someone's couch to sleep on. They'll say, I'm not homeless, I have a couch. Part of it is that stigma and part of it is a matter of self-identity. So their confidence suffers and their academics suffer. When you think about how many people are behind a single student, family, friends, and relatives. They have very few or none of those.

Ted Simons: When you say homelessness, I think most people think of kids in the street. But some of these kids, they may be homeless but they do have some family, do they not?

Tamela Franks: And they have friends and support systems and they couch-hop a lot of times so they spend the time over at one friend's house and then they go to their next friend's house. They don't consider themselves homeless. But they have some support with friends and friend's families.

Ken Lynch: That's another part of that invisibleness you were talking about, Ted. A lot of those young people won't identify as homeless because they're worried they'll be broken up from their family. They'd rather not get involved with that at all.

Ted Simons: Last question, what do we take away from this report?

Ken Lynch: Awareness is key. If we are aware that these people are just like every other young people, but they've been dealt a really hard hand, that's the first step to having compassion and making a difference as individuals because we can make a difference.

Tamela Franks: The other thing is we this has to become a priority. They said a lot about the liaison has other responsibilities. We need to have some support and be very clear about making this a priority.

Ted Simons: Very good. Thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons: And Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon," hear about expansion plans for a global satellite constellation and Washington's Vietnam memorial. That's on the next "Arizona Horizon."

Ted Simons: that is for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Ken Lynch: Tumbleweed Tempe Youth Resource Center

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