With some students heading home for the holidays homeless students are just looking for a warm place.
“I was living on the streets because of being inconsiderate towards my family putting them through stress while I was using drugs,” said Christopher Bryant 18, TJC freshman
The term homeless youth means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence according to the United States Supreme Court McKinney Vento Act.
“I was staying in public places on benches at the Children’s Park and on the benches at the Cathedral on Broadway and Front,” said Bryant.
It also includes children and youth who are sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, or economic hardships. For some, rebellious acts toward their parents lead them to sleep on the streets.
“My basic needs weren’t being met when I was on the streets, I had terrible sleep habits, terrible eating habits, I didn’t have reliable transportation or money,” said Bryant
Some homeless move from the streets to living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations. Others are lucky enough to find transitional shelters, like the Salvation Army. At the Salvation Army in Tyler, there is an emergency program students on the streets can take advantage of, the only requirements are that the student is 18 and that they explain to the Salvation Army that they need shelter.
“I’m from west Texas I came to the Salvation Army to get off dope and off the streets. This is my ninth rehab, I have been through 12 step programs and the only thing that seems to work for me is God,” said Cody Dooley, 31,in-house patient at Salvation Army Tyler. And that’s what the Sally’s all about. We have daily devotions, and that’s good because it brings me back to where I need to be,” said Dooley.
After explaining the situation to the Salvation Army they will give emergency shelter for two to three days. After being in the emergency shelter for a few days, the student will go to the social services dept and do an intake or an assessment. This is where the Salvation Army finds out how the student got into that situation and together with a counselor the student will start to reconfigure his or her life.
“We have one student from Texas College in our work program,” said Steve Houston director of Residential and Social Services at the Salvation Army in Tyler.
These places are not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodations for youth, but with youth living in cars, parks, public spaces, and abandoned buildings more shelters are becoming a way to keep students off the streets. The Salvation Army would allow the student 30 days to seek employment, after the 30 days, the student has 60 days to get back on their feet. Once the student is financially stable and capable of handling their own affairs, the Salvation Army would assist in helping the student find appropriate housing within their means.
“If there are students out there that are homeless remember that in your time of need there are resources here at the Salvation Army to help you. We welcome you with open arms,” said Houston.
According to a report by the United States Conference of Mayors homelessness is a widespread and serious issue that affects a diverse population.
“Anyone can become homeless. A lot of people are one paycheck or one illness away from homelessness,” said Christina Fulsom, president of the Smith county Coalition for Homelessness and executive director for P.A.T.H.
In 2006 a study done by the United States Conference of Mayors 42 percent of homeless people were African American, 39 percent were Caucasian, 13 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were Native American, and 2 percent were Asian. And 40 percent of homeless men have served in the armed forces.
“I’ve been on the streets a month and a half. My husband came in search of work, and we still haven’t found anything because of the recession,” said Jennifer Gaught 30 who is homeless. The worst thing I have seen on the streets is a man hang himself. I found his body this morning. It made me feel sad and emotionless. Makes you realize how bad depression can be.
For more information, contact the Salvation Army at (903)-592-4361 or P.A.T.H. at (903) 533-8394