Being homeless lifts teen angst to a whole new level of pain. Vulnerable youth no longer children but not quite adults have few reliable havens where they can safely seek help.
But Salt Lake City's Homeless Youth Resource Center is one place where teens can drop by to take showers, eat meals, get counseling, search for jobs and fill backpacks with portable food that will help them survive another night on the streets. An average of 60 to 85 teens visit the center on a daily basis, and demands to help kids with the most basic of needs continues to grow, said Volunteers of America, Utah spokeswoman Michelle Templin.
Last year, the nonprofit VOA, which operates the Homeless Youth Resource Center, distributed more than 73,000 food items through outreach efforts. The organization also served more than 82,000 meals in VOA-sponsored residential programs.
This Friday, Volunteers of America, Utah is hosting a drive-up food drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to replenish its coffers. And the effort has been streamlined to offer maximum convenience to Utah's generous but busy donors.
"They don't even need to get out of their car," Templin said. "People pull up, we unload their car, and they just drive away."
Canned goods protein-packed foods, soups, fruits and vegetables can be dropped off in front of two locations: the VOA's Homeless Youth Resource Center at 655 S. State St. and also its Cornerstone Counseling Center at 447 Bearcat Drive in South Salt Lake. Cash donations are also welcome, but household items and clothing are not currently needed, Templin said.
According to a 2011 report compiled by Salt Lake County's Task Force to End Youth Homelessness, the number of homeless teens is on the rise, and prevention measures and services are inadequate to deal with the growing need.
"On any given night in Salt Lake County it is estimated there are 500 youth between the ages of 15 and 22 who are homeless," the 17-page report concluded, adding that a more thorough assessment is needed to accurately quantify the problem. Many are runaways, "throwaways" or individuals discarded by their families, gang members, and drug and alcohol users. Volunteers of America, Utah conducted a survey where 75 percent of homeless youth reported having been physically and/or sexual abused.
In Utah, VOA operates more than 10 programs and serves over 10,000 individuals each year. To learn more or to contribute online, go to http://www.voaut.org.
Drive-Up Food Drive
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, the Volunteers of America, Utah will take drive-up donations at two locations: 655 S. State St. in Salt Lake City and 447 Bearcat Drive (in the Times Square office complex across from R.C. Willey on 300 West near 2100 South) in South Salt Lake.
Suggested donations include bottled water, canned tuna, SPAM, stew, chili, ravioli, soup, pineapple, oranges, pears, fruit cocktail, beans, carrots, peas and other canned goods. Cash donations are also welcome.