‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:31-46
Recently I made the comment at a get together that now that we’re in South Carolina year round, there is no need to keep the winter coats we brought with us from up north and haven’t used in a few years. Someone suggested I donate them to the ‘street kids in Raleigh’ through ‘Stand Up for Kids’.
‘Street kids’? In Raleigh? Who are the ‘street kids in Raleigh’ and what is ‘Stand Up for Kids’? (http://www.facebook.com/pages/StandUp-For-Kids-Raleigh-Metro-Serving-Raleigh-Durham-and-Chapel-Hill/349581744120).
I’ve learned that ‘street kids or street children’ is a term used to refer to children who live on the streets of a city who are between the ages of about 5 and 17.years old. It can be any girl or boy who has not reached adulthood, for whom the street or unoccupied dwellings has become his ‘place’ of abode. They are inadequately protected, directed, and/or supervised by responsible adults.
These kids hunker down under cardboard boxes, in old or abandoned buildings, parks or even just on the streets themselves. Why would kids leave their homes and take to the streets? For different reasons: family breakdown, poverty and hunger, physical and sexual abuse, exploitation by adults, being overcrowded at home or being disowned for something. It is estimated that 20-40 percent of all homeless teens are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. There are approximately 2,000 persons homeless in the Triangle area each night…
Because these children live a discreet and secretive existence, accurate statistics on them vary but the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates there are approximately 100 million street children worldwide with that number constantly growing. There are up to 40 million street children in Latin America , and at least 18 million in India and 10 million in Africa. The numbers are attributed respectively to failing economies, poverty and overcrowded conditions. The AIDS epidemic and civil wars in Africa have caused a surge in the number of street children as a result of the abandonment of AIDS orphans. Many studies have determined that street children are most often boys aged 10 to 14, with increasingly younger children being affected (Amnesty International, 1999.)
Street children may be found on every inhabited continent in a large majority of the world’s cities. The following indicates the global extent of street child populations. Latin America, India, Africa, Egypt, Pakistan, Kenya, Philippines, Congo, Morocco, Brazil, Germany, Honduras, Jamaica, Uruguay.
Did you know there were so many homeless kids in the streets in the U.S.?
Currently there are 1.3 million homeless and runaway street kids in the United States, not counting children who were forced out of their homes, abandoned by the foster care system, or are part of a homeless family. Children make up 27 percent—the fastest growing segment—of the U.S. homeless population. When I researched this segment of the population, I learned that, unfortunately, there are street kids almost everywhere. Many times, they are overlooked by a city unless there is a jurisdiction policy of picking them up, in which case they may be returned to their abusive homes or incarcerated on minor charges. Not all states define a 15 year old as under age.
The average age of a homeless person in the United States is (9) nine years old, and there are many kids below the age of nine on the streets, some with their families, some living in cars, but most trying to survive on their own. Some of these children live in the streets and may go home occasionally or infrequently – if the home is still intact – for meals, and if they are provided. Their ‘homes’ may be in foreclosure, or there may be abusive treatment, which may result in the child or children to leave the home and live on the streets permanently. Children living on the streets are especially vulnerable to victimization, exploitation, and the abuse of their civil and economic rights.
Most runaway children do not realize the dangers of living on the streets. According to the National Runaway Switchboard, 75% of runaways will become involved in theft, drugs or pornography. One out of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.
A widely accepted set of definitions, commonly attributed to UNICEF, divides street children into two main categories:
Children on the street are those engaged in some kind of economic activity ranging from begging to vending. Most go home at the end of the day and contribute their earnings to their family. They may be attending school and retain a sense of belonging to a family. Because of the economic fragility of the family, these children may eventually opt for a permanent life on the streets. Children of the street actually live on the street (or outside of a normal family environment). Family ties may exist but are tenuous and are maintained only casually or occasionally.
So what is Stand Up for Kids? It is an organization that helps homeless and at-risk youths age 21 and younger. They have locations in many states in the U.S. Here is their website: http://www.standupforkids.org/
Marie Coppola Revised April 2013