Local forum seeks to address issues of youth and homelessness

62496115 - young homeless boy sleeping on the bridge, poverty, city, street

The number of homeless students in Washington State is up for the ninth year in a row.

But, according to OSPI’s Nathan Olsen, “homeless” may not necessarily mean living on the streets.

“A student can be what’s called “doubled up,” or “couch-surfing,” Olsen said. “They’re sleeping on the couch of a friend or relatives or grandparent, aunt and uncle, that kind of thing.”

The latest figures indicate about one in every 25 K-through-12 students experience homelessness…one about one in every classroom in the state.

The state receives about $1 million dollars every year from the federal government to help some of those students get to school each day.

“What that money goes toward, largely, is transportation. The idea is to keep those students in their home district as possible.

Meanwhile, First Presbyterian Church in Kennewick hosts a forum Monday night to address concerns about homelessess among local youth.

The Youth and Homelessness Forum is set for Monday, April 16th.

The panel for the forum is expected to include Dr. LoAnn Ayers, president and CEO of the United Way of Benton/Franklin County; Karen Kirk-Brockman, executive Director of Safe Harbor; Linda Villanueva, site coordinator in Prosser for Communtiy Schools BentonFranklin; and Annie Merriman, program supervisor, Lutheran Community Services.

Rev. Hanna Peterson-Shearer is Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Kennewick, and says the forum will provide a platform for the community to begin to address the issues of youth homelessness in our area.

“To hear what some of the real needs are, and then to brainstorm–what do we do as a community?” said Peterson-Shearer. “How do we reach these kids? How do we care for these families. How do we reunite them in a safe housing environment?”

The public is invited to take part in the forum Monday, April 16th starting at 7:00 p.m., at Kennewick First Presbyterian Church, 2001 W. Kennewick Avenue.

There’s no charge to participate.

For more information, contact First Presbyterian Church at 509-582-9537.