The pressing human needs of youth and young adults from hard places.
I (Brenda) was at an Independent Living conference at a large hotel in downtown Denver several years ago for youth who had just aged out of foster care or were about to age out. The ballroom was huge and full of teens. Fear was thick in the room and permeating every corner; it was several hours into the conference before I began to understand why.
As the youth at my round table began sharing bits and pieces of their stories, I learned they didn’t have drivers licenses, access to computers (unless they could somehow get to the public library), or anything above a minimum wage job. I discovered many of the youth present were utilizing government subsidized housing vouchers that were only good for 18 months. Many of the teens at my table knew they had no place to go but the street, once their vouchers expired. They were the type of scared that makes it hard to breathe.
On a break, one of the teens from my table who was 19 and near the end of his housing voucher came up to me visibly shaking from head to toe. He asked me if I could help him get into college, because he knew I was working for a college campus ministry at the time. I had to look him in the eye that day and let him know I had no idea how to help him get from where he was to where he wanted to be.
His needs were immense, but I can’t tell you how many moments I’ve had since that time of wishing I knew then what I know now. My answer would have been vastly different.
At the end of the conference, I was able to return to my large and comfortably furnished home, full fridge, and the security of stable work, income, and savings; but it didn’t feel comfortable anymore. As William Wilberforce famously said, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”