Community organizations help youth homeless prepare for future

Related Story

COLUMBIA- November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month and organizations in the community are working to find ways to help homeless youth succeed in their future.

According to The 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report nearly a quarter of all homeless people in the United States were children under the age of 18. Ten percent of all homeless were between the ages of 18 and 24.

Rainbow House Emergency Shelter in Columbia has multiple programs set up to help young people succeed.  

Mark Kirchhoff, the Outreach Case Manager for The Homeless Youth Program at Rainbow House said its mission is for the young people to live independently, off the streets, following their time at the shelter.  

"Residents receive life skills classes, anywhere from learning to cook healthy meals, to budgeting, to saving money. While they're here our goal is to get them stabilized" Kirchhoff said.  

Young people can live at Rainbow House for up to 18 months. Within that time, Rainbow House works to prepare and transition the residents into safe living.  

The Homeless Youth Program at Rainbow House focuses on people ages 16 to 21.  Kirchhoff said Rainbow House works very closely with Columbia Public Schools to make sure that its residents are continuing to stay in school and complete their education. CPS said it has around 200 homeless students.  

Carla London, supervisor of student and family advocacy for CPS, works to make sure the schools are providing homeless students with the necessary help.

"We have free and reduced lunch and make sure that we provide transportation for our students. It is crucial that these homeless youth have transportation to their school of origin so we can work to keep some sort of consistent environment for the homeless students," London said

Kirchhoff said many of the residents of Rainbow House have aged out of the foster care system.  

Clark Peters, a professor for The University of Missouri School of Social Work, said such young people statistically do not do well once they leave foster care.

"About a third of them coming out of foster care experience homelessness." 

Throughout National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, Rainbow House hosts various events such as their dodge ball tournament to raise money, but Kirchhoff said it's also important that youth struggling on the streets become aware that advocates are there to help.