Naive Youth Needs Tattoos

Studying doesn’t start well. My pathology book is open to a chapter on lymphomas. I try reading a page, but nothing sticks. The glossy pictures of swollen, diseased lymph nodes don’t help, nor do my various brightly colored highlighters. It’s tough because the nature of the material is gloomy and morbid, a complete antithesis to the sunny day outside. It’s disease after disease, ad infinitum. Abnormal cells, malignant lumps, blocked vessels, yellow skin, crusty ulcers and green discharge . It’s death and dying every day, all day, so much so that I feel like medical school robs me of my naive youth. All this mortality stuff should be reserved for old people, not young. It makes me want to burn my books. It makes me want to scream, drink, eat fattening foods, go to an amusement park and get a tattoo.

-Manic Kingdom: A True Story of Breakdown and Breakthrough by Dr. Erin Stair

Homeless Youth Shelters

Homeless Youth

There are youth shelters throughout the United States but there are far fewer of them than adult shelters and sometimes they don’t advertise their location for safety reasons. Often youth shelters are not included in resources listing. For example: I did a quick search for all shelters in Duluth, MN through Homeless Shelters | Find Homeless Shelters | Homeless Shelter Search and the local youth shelter was not listed, despite having a website and generally being as visible as a youth shelter can be. This means that children and youth find out about shelters through other homeless children and youth, or through the staff at the adult shelters.

Adult shelters will not take children without an accompanying adult and sometimes they will turn away families because they have children – other times they will turn away adults without children, it all depends on the shelter. So homeless kids without a guardian frequently sleep and survive on the street.

A few years back, I interviewed a few people at the Life House youth shelter in Duluth MN and they made some very interesting points about the unique challenges in securing funding for a youth shelter. They admitted that many children in Duluth were forced to sleep outside because the shelter simply did not have enough beds. But they also said the funding wasn’t JUST for beds. Homeless children need an adult support network, schooling, counseling, positive discipline tactics, stability and a litany of other things that can’t be found in an adult shelter or on the street. While the Life House provides all of these things, they have to PAY the adults to do them.

That particular town had an extensive network of services for children, including a very active foster care program and a crisis shelter (usually used by parents who need childcare while addressing an emergency) through Lutheran Social Services (http://www.lssmn.org) as well as several abuse-oriented shelters and programs. Yet, the local homeless service providers estimated that at least 25–30 kids were sleeping on the streets every night. Duluth MN is not a big city. It’s a small-to-medium sized market, at best.

Minneapolis is a city (not a BIG city like New York, but a city) and it has a significantly larger population of homeless youth. There are shelters: Youth Shelter Information But there’s never enough resources to meet the overwhelming need.

Here is where I see the BIGGEST problem in all of this: I have heard it said that a child generally lasts about 20 minutes before someone on the street snatches them. Pimps, child abusers and human traffickers of all kinds recognize a runaway or otherwise desperate child and lures them away with promises of food and shelter. 20 minutes!

I personally experienced being lured. I was 16 years old, traveling alone, reading a book in a Milwaukee bus station. Two pimps sat themselves down on either side of me and proceeded to play good-cop-bad-cop, trying to entice or force me out of my chair and into the street – with them. The fact that I knew a) exactly what was happening and b) how to get rid of them tells you something about the people in my life at that time. While I was street smart enough to recognize and avoid that situation, I also had someplace to go. I was hungry and completely out of money, but I had a bus ticket and a destination. I could skip a meal or two.

How long did it take them to find me? I don’t know when they identified me as a target because I’d been in the city a few hours, but when they approached me I’d been sitting at the bus station for about 20 minutes.

Place a child/youth who is naive or desperate in that situation and these guys can get away with pretty much anything. Having enough shelters with enough beds for every child in need of help is a life and death matter for homeless children.

Sadly, that’s not our current reality.

Originally posted on Quora in answer to the question: Where can homeless youth (under 18) find shelter in the USA?

Also see:

Tween Love

Quote

Amazon.com

“Saukerl,” she laughed, and as she held up her hand, she knew completely that he was simultaneously calling her a Saumensch. I think that’s as close to love as eleven-year-olds can get.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Notes:

Strength, Invisibility and Poverty

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Amazon.com

He minded being unpitiable only at mealtime. At the orphanage, when rich white women visited, Sunil had refused to beg for rupees. Instead he’d harbored the idea that one of the women might single him out, reward his dignified restraint. For years, he had waited for this discriminating visitor to meet his eye; he planned to introduce himself as “Sunny,” a name a foreigner might like. Eventually, he’d come to realize the improbability of his hope, and his general indistinction in the mass of need. But by then, the habit of not asking anyone for anything had become a part of who he was.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo

From the epilogue:

The events recounted in the preceding pages are real, as are all the names. From the day in November 2007 that I walked into Annawadi and met Asha and Manju until March 2011, when I completed my reporting, I documented the experiences of residents with written notes, video recordings, audiotapes, and photographs. Several children of the slum, having mastered my Flip Video camera, also documented events recounted in this book….When I settle into a place, listening and watching, I don’t try to fool myself that the stories of individuals are themselves arguments. I just believe that better arguments, maybe even better policies, get formulated when we know more about ordinary lives.

The Search For Eternal Middle Age

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Amazon.com

DomDaniel had been an arrogant and unpleasant ExtraOrdinary Wizard, completely uninterested in the Castle and the people there who needed his help, pursuing only his desire for extreme power and eternal youth. Or rather, since DomDaniel had taken a while to work it out, eternal middle age.

Septimus Heap, Book One: Magyk by Angie Sage

The Occupation

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Amazon.com

It is not uncommon for a young black teenager living in a ghetto community to be stopped, interrogated, and frisked numerous times in the course of a month, or even a single week, often by paramilitary units.

The militarized nature of law enforcement in ghetto communities has inspired rap artists and black youth to refer to the police presence in black communities as “The Occupation.” In these occupied territories, many black youth automatically “assume the position” when a patrol car pulls up, knowing full well that they will be detained and frisked no matter what.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

 

Dear Unknown Blogger – Thanks For The Book

Amazon.com

I must admit to deciding to read this book based on a blog posting that I can no longer locate. The blog was written by a young (teens? 20s?) woman who was making a comment about trying to discuss this book with a 30+ year old woman only to discover the older person had never heard of it.

While the post was mostly about generational gap communication (or so to speak), it made me curious enough to track down a copy and read it.

The first thing I realized was the existence of a movie I vaguely remembered seeing in random advertisements…somewhere. (I don’t have regular television, only Netflix and Amazon Prime, so visual advertisements are encountered online and in newspapers.)

The second thing I realized was how impossible it is to put this book down. Simply impossible! The first sentence drew me in. I stopped reading because it was time to get back to work or make dinner or…whatever…but the moment my eyes scanned random words from a sentence on a page it was like some irresistible force was sucking me back into the story.

Seriously!

At one point, I turned on my Kindle to check the time and the state of my email (read: how many unread messages have piled up?), glanced at the page long enough for my mind to register that this book was still open, read half a sentence and ten minutes later I was forcing myself to close the book, within the reader (before shutting it off), so that I could get back to my regularly scheduled life.

I really wish I knew what kind of mojo this author has to turn a simple and (frankly) uneventful story into such an aggressive attention grabber. Don’t get me wrong, the story was very good, but the magic is in the style, not the plot.

The Fault in Our Stars is a love story between two teenage cancer survivors (Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters). Teenagers facing both love and death. It’s a mix that could easily devolve into ultra-dramatic and highly annoying youth angst. Yet, somehow, it never loses the solidity of reality. It’s a book that gently pulls on the heartstrings instead of dragging them out of your chest. It presents the characters in moments of strength and weakness. It portrays cancer in a way that is almost to real.

I am of the opinion that the reality of life lived by the dying is the strongest aspect to the plot. There are many points where the popular perception of the dying is discussed by the dying in blunt, honest and occasionally sarcastic tones. It frankly examines the realities the not-yet-dying either do not consider or purposely chose to refrain from acknowledging. It also frames these observations and events within an almost to-perfect-to-be-true relationship.

Obviously, I enjoyed the book.

If you are the blogger who inadvertently recommended it to this no-longer-20-something reader, I thank you. If you are a reader (of any age) who is still considering cracking the spine of this text, here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:

““Augustus Waters,” I said, looking up at him, thinking that you cannot kiss anyone in the Anne Frank House, and then thinking that Anne Frank, after all, kissed someone in the Anne Frank House, and that she would probably like nothing more than for her home to have become a place where the young and irreparably broken sink into love”

““The world,” he said, “is not a wish-granting factory,” and then he broke down, just for one moment, his sob roaring impotent like a clap of thunder unaccompanied by lightning, the terrible ferocity that amateurs in the field of suffering might mistake for weakness.”

“If you go to the Rijksmuseum, which I really wanted to do—but who are we kidding, neither of us can walk through a museum. But anyway, I looked at the collection online before we left. If you were to go, and hopefully someday you will, you would see a lot of paintings of dead people. You’d see Jesus on the cross, and you’d see a dude getting stabbed in the neck, and you’d see people dying at sea and in battle and a parade of martyrs. But Not. One. Single. Cancer. Kid. Nobody biting it from the plague or smallpox or yellow fever or whatever, because there is no glory in illness. There is no meaning to it. There is no honor in dying of.”

-The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Unethical Portrayal of Homeless Youths

I picked up this edition of the City Pages with high hopes for the cover article. Sadly, the reporter touched on the realities of homelessness in a disturbingly common manner. The first half of the article presented intimate details about the difficult situations, including abuse, rape and living ‘arrangements’ wherein teenagers trade sex for a place to live (a common method abuse perpetrated on this particularly vulnerable community) in a semi-sensational manner.

About midway through, while describing a collection of teenagers who managed (against all odds) to band together, get a roof over their heads and begin forming something akin to a family (read: formerly homeless and basically unsupervised teenagers sharing a house in the wealthy western suburbs), the following comment is made:

“They’re a hodgepodge of exotic sexualities and obsessive fandoms. With the exception of Crystal’s “super gay” girlfriend, the others are open to dating any number of people regardless of sex or gender.”

This is followed with details that enforce the idea that broken kids, with kinky habits, have set up shop in town. Honestly, I found myself wondering why the article wasn’t titled something like: Slumming It Just Got Local, New Options In the Suburbs!

After finishing the article, I felt really bad for the teens portrayed, because the fallout from this journalist’s work will be life-long and extremely damaging.

I also felt angry…enraged, really…at the insensitive and irresponsible nature of the piece. The details highlighted directly benefit pimps, johns and predators. Even worse – they were not necessary, or even pertinent, to the story.

There is an enormous amount of information related to homelessness among the super-wealthy that is never touched upon. There are issues never explored. There are realities that effectively disappear because the media-defined ‘important’ facts only exist at the  intersection of sex, youth and desperation.

Bottom line? Homeless teens need real help and reasonably accessible resources. Journalists like Ms. Du need some eye-opening experiences or sensitivity training – probably both.

The Real Homeless of Wayzata High, City Pages, by Susan Du