By: Tyler Schueffner, Briarpatch Youth Services Street Outreach Coordinator
It’s late Spring, as most high school seniors anticipate graduation and summer, Chris is wondering where he’s going to live. Chris knew this day was coming. He had lived with his Aunt Jenny for the past three years and was told from day one, turn 18, graduate, and move out. Chris’s aunt took him in when his mother passed away from an accidental overdose. Jenny wanted to help, but has three kids of her own, works 50 hours a week, and has her own struggles to manage. Chris’s mom, who had long struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, was in several abusive relationships and struggled to hold down a job. He never knew his father, and recalls moving several times when he was young; his only memory being the random men his mom would get involved with only to get hurt and leave. Chris doesn’t have any other family to speak of.
The day has finally arrived, Chris graduated Saturday afternoon, spends Sunday packing his belongings: a few pairs of pants, a couple shirts, some dirty socks, a picture of his mom, and an Xbox. On Monday morning, Chris grabs the garbage bag with his things, lays his key on the counter, takes one last look around, and walks out the apartment door. Chris is lucky he has a friend whose parents are willing to take him in for a few days but can’t guarantee anything longer.
What happens to Chris? That’s the question we at Briarpatch Youth Services often ask. Chris, like many teens and young adults in our community are thrown into the adult world with little support, a heavy heart, few life skills, and even fewer resources. Nearly every day Briarpatch staff, volunteers, and student interns are interacting with young people like Chris.
What is Briarpatch Youth Services? More than 40 years ago, a small dedicated group of citizens recognized the unique needs of young people in Madison, creating Briarpatch’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Program. In those 40 years Briarpatch has struggled, learned, and expanded the services we provide to the community. They involve direct homeless street outreach, crisis counseling, emergency shelter for teens, transitional housing for young adults, case management, parent / caregiver support, court involved youth services, youth employment, community peer court, and teen and parent support groups.
So, what can you do? Briarpatch offers many ways for the community to get involved. Briarpatch relies heavily on volunteers. Our volunteers are trained to work alongside our staff, working directly with teens and families in need. Briarpatch is also seeking allies and supporters who will champion the issues and challenges facing young people in our community. An ally can support us financially, organize donation drives, and/or fundraisers on behalf of Briarpatch Youth Services. Learn more by visit our website at briarptch.org and click the “get involved” tab. You can also like us on Facebook and get regular updates.
Young people like Chris need hope and opportunity… they just might need you!
Learn more about Briarpatch Youth Services by visiting their website: www.youthsos.org.
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