Homeless Youth Awareness Month kicks off in November

By: MENG REN
neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

A room of homeless youth gathered at Nov. 4 in the Daniel Boone Regional Library to share their stories as part of the activities held in November, also Homeless Youth Awareness Month.

Residents and former residents at the Sol House discussed their experiences before and after living in the shelter.

The Sol House is an off-site facility of Rainbow House, a child abuse and neglect intervention program in central Missouri.

The Sol House helps homeless youth transition into adulthood by providing housing and services.

It allows homeless youth from 16 to 21 years old to live in the house for up to 21 months with three months aftercare.

Rainbow House receives 10 homeless local youth every month, said Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid.

“I found out Sol House before my mom kicked me out,” said former resident Zack Smith.

“When I was 21-22 years old, I realized my old ways weren’t working. It was time for a new change,” said Micah Schafer, 23, former residence at the Sol House.

It’s the second year Rainbow House has held the awareness month.

An emergency shelter will be open on Dec.1 where the staff take children living on the streets, said Talbott.

Columbia Public Schools counted 198 homeless students during the 2008-2009 school year, said Heather Windham, Transitional Living Program director.

Nationally, approximately 1.6 million youth ages 12-17 ran away from home and slept on the streets in the past 12 months, Windham said.

“The community has a big misconception about homeless teens,” said Jan Stock, executive president at the Rainbow House.

Samantha Summers, 21, lived in an abusive home until 17 before she found out the Rainbow House program.

She lived at the Sol House for three months and left Sept. 18.

The Sol House teaches homeless youth life skills such as managing and budgeting, and discussing problems with people, Summers said.

“They want to help, that’s their main goal,” said Summers. “You don’t have to go hungry if you don’t have food.”

She is now working a part-time job and expecting her second child with her boyfriend, Richard Nichols, 18. They came to the Sol House together in May.

“I’m trying to understand everything on my own,” said Smith.

There will be a documentary showcase about Sol House resident at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, November 7th at Memorial Union, Jesse Wrench Auditorium, according to the Web site.

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