SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Local organizations are working to combat the local youth homelessness issue. The Community Partnership of the Ozarks recently released its 2019 High Risk and Homeless Youth report. Of the 78 homeless and at-risk youth in Springfield earlier this year, 57 of them reported having been a victim of or witness to repeated household traumas.
More than half reported they had wondered where they would sleep the following night.
Meleah Spencer, CEO of The Kitchen, said we as a community can be quick to judge a teen who they may think didn’t want to obey their parent’s rules.
However, Spencer said it’s just the opposite as she recalls an incident with me where a teen’s rules at home were to be subjected to sexual abuse. She said we must continue these kinds of conversations which allow homeless youth to have a voice and to be heard. Spencer said lots of the teens she sees are dealing with trust barriers.
“I definitely took it for granted, I never thought i would be here,” said former homeless youth Douglas Aaro. “I never thought I would be anywhere near this situation and then it just hits you like a ton of bricks.”
Douglas Aaro was living in the woods here in Springfield not too long ago.
“I was nineteen when my parents kicked me out,” said Aaro.
He said his parents told him to leave after he complained about having to move to a new state.
Aaro said his friend introduced him to rare breed.
He said although it was hard to let his guard down, giving the staff a chance was his best decision yet.
“The person I am today is exceptionally better than the person I was when I was just becoming homeless,” said Aaro.
Aaro now has a job, a place of his own, and a daughter.
“It’s the greatest achievement, I can sit at my own house at night and relax knowing that I’m fine,” said Aaro.
However, he says none of this would be possible if someone didn’t give him a second chance at life.
“I never met my father and I watched my mother struggle from job to job and place to place,” said Aaro. “I don’t want my son or daughter to go through everything I’ve just been through.”
Click here for the 2019 High Risk and Homeless Youth Report.