A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with an organization called Covenant House. Covenant House is a homeless shelter, advocate, and support system for teenagers who find themselves homeless.
Let’s take a second to think about that last phrase… Teenagers…who find themselves homeless.
Now, I don’t want to assume anything about our readers, but, aside from maybe running away once or twice, most of us probably aren’t familiar with a life on the streets. Sure, we all had issues: bullying, insecurity, depression, heartbreak, pressure, stress, anxiety, etc. Not making light of any of those issues, because certainly they can be traumatic for young people.
But here’s the thing, most people have a family to turn to (albeit imperfect, maybe dysfunctional) in a time of struggle.
Can you imagine not having a family to rely on?
I mean, as a teenager, I had 99 problems, but homelessness was definitely not one of ‘em.
Very, very grateful for the amazing family I was born into.
Some people can’t say the same.
Anyway, back to my days with Covenant House.
It was a profound experience.
It was an opportunity to meet many young souls with so much promise. They just needed a little help.
Now, I’m a farm kid from North Dakota. So, working with street kids from NYC & NJ was something completely foreign to me.
I’ll never forget my walk on the boardwalk of Atlantic City with one of our teens Adrian (fictional name for purposes of confidentiality).
Adrian wore a lot of red. Bright red. Like, every single day.
If you know anything about gang culture, wearing red every day is a sign of affiliation with the Bloods.
Anyway, we’re walking on the boardwalk, having conversation about life, girls, dreams…when he stops dead in his tracks and says, “You just split the pole.”
I’m like, “Excuse me? Split the pole?”
He responds “Yeah, when you’re walking & talking, and you walk on the other side of a pole (a sign, streetlight, whatever), it’s called splitting the pole. It’s a sign of disrespect in gang culture.”
So, FYI, future reference, if you find yourself walking & talking with a gang member, stay on the same side of the pole as him (or her). 🙂
“Real talk,” as he would say: “The reason I’m at ‘the Cov’ is because I can’t go home. Too much abuse. I’d rather deal with the bulls**t on the streets than get hit by my stepdad every day. So my brother & I got up out.”
Adrian’s “home” was a battleground.
A few entries from the diary of Adrian, circa 2014:
“I am so alone, so crushed, so scarred. Why have I ended up like this? Is it me? Help me understand, someone, anyone. Help me understand.”
“It’s been two months now since I ran away from the abuse that was killing me. I wonder what it must be like for other kids who never have to run away. What must it be like to spend a night in a warm bed, unafraid? I would give anything not to be sleeping in fear…in panic.”
“I’ll be alright. But it’s my brother I worry about most. He (stepfather) has a thing for my brother. My brother is in danger…every day. He’s got two black eyes and f**king welts on his stomach. He’s only 12 years old, man. I pray for him. I hope I can be there for him.”
Another teenager, Angel, who sought shelter at the Cov told me on her 16th birthday: “Thank you Mr. Jon. I’ve never had a birthday cake. Ever. Thank you.”
Never had a birthday cake?
This is the reality that some people face.
Children that are abused or neglected, including those who witness domestic violence, are 10X more likely to experience cognitive, emotional, & behavioral problems, such as
- Difficulty in school,
- Hyperactive sexual behavior,
- Substance abuse,
- Self-harm, and, most tragically,
According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, an estimated 702,000 U.S. children were documented victims of abuse in 2014, and approximately 1,580 of these children lost their lives. These figures are considered underestimates, though, as child abuse is believed to be widely underreported.
Of course, sadly, adults face it too.
According to the Huffington Post, more than 4.7 million adult women in the U.S. experience domestic violence every year. One out of four women in our nation will be victims of severe violence at home during their lifetimes. The statistic for men is one out of seven.
Domestic violence is a major issue facing our communities, our nation, our world.
Major issues call for major solutions. Solutions providing support, healing, and hope.
Thanks to innovators at places like Covenant House and SAFE (Stop Abuse For Everyone), people like Adrian & Angel have a place to get back on their feet.
SAFE is a structured partnership between SafePlace and Austin Children’s Shelter, two organizations that serve the survivors of child abuse & neglect, sexual assault & exploitation, and domestic violence. The partnership’s mission is to lead the way in ending sexual assault & exploitation, child abuse, and domestic violence through prevention, intervention and advocacy for change.
We at Mic’d have the honor of putting on an event that supports the life-changing work being done every day by our friends at SAFE
Hope you can join us for Mic’d For A Cause, a benefit for our brothers & sisters in need. Come learn about the great work SAFE is doing, enjoy live music, meet new friends, & make a difference!
We’ve got Texas country blues, a funky hip hop debut, huggable humanitarians, drink specials, & a hell of a lot of energy from Waco at one of Austin’s best live music venues.
Event Info & RSVP on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/301720480180280/.