Sunday, June 04, 2006

My View by Wil Sharp

Well let get started by this nice reminder I read last year.
It was written by: Wil Sharp who is the director of
D&M Homeless Youth Outreach
Which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing
mentorship to the abused and impoverished youths and young adults
Who call Portland’s streets their home.
My dear friends, Read this post and let the facts sink in.
Read with your heart and mind open.
Read with the idea that you can help make a change for the better.
I am!
Abuse at home sends kids to the streets
Issue date: Fri, Nov 4, 2005 The Tribune (Portland Oregon)

Refering back to an article in the Oct. 21 Portland Tribune titled
Street life breeds street morals” which focused on street youths who aren’t youths at all. However, focusing on one person’s criminal career doesn’t help the reader understand the thousands of young people who’ve been forced to leave their homes and have nowhere to go but the street. Several thousand street kids live here in Portland.
Most counts put the population at somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 individuals. That doesn’t include people in their 30s and 40s, just youths and young adults. That is the one of the highest per-capita populations in the nation. In fact, on any given week I see hundreds of individuals who are little older than children walking past me looking for food. It’s enough to break my heart a thousand times over. Every time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that we live in a youth-centric culture. It’s only cool to be a grown-up until age 21, then we all become like Ponce de León. That applies to street people, too: A person in the story would rather be called a street kid than a bum (and who wouldn’t?), but that doesn’t mean he or she is a street kid. The question that should have been asked is:
How did these people get there? Most of the actual street youths and young adults, the thousands organizations talk about, are from abusive homes.
According to Robert Coates’ book “The Street Is Not a Home: Solving America’s Homeless Dilemma,” up to 90 percent of street youths come from homes where sexual and/or physical abuse was present. This is supported by other studies, reports and surveys too numerous to list. The fact is that most of these kids come out on the streets where something bad might happen to them rather than stay home where something bad is happening to them all the time. It has nothing to do with adolescent rebellion. The kids who come out on the street because their parents shut off their cell phones go home pretty darn fast.
So why did so many people in the Tribune’s story say they were out on the streets because they want to be? Could it have something to do with the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice reports that 80 percent of abuse survivors refuse to admit it ever happened? There is so much shame involved in abuse, especially sexual abuse, it isn’t surprising to me that so many of the street youths I see want to pretend they are there because they think it’s cool. However, with almost every street youth I have gotten to know well, there is a story of heartbreak and abuse. Sometimes the abuse is so much worse in its viciousness and creativity than anything most people can conceive of that it’s easier for us as a society to join the youths in denying its existence. It seems ridiculous, from a societal point of view, to divide street youths from gutter punks (whom I find to be usually very polite and gracious). Both are young people, have the same background and live in relatively the same fashion. They tend to self-medicate in different ways and listen to different music, and those are the biggest differences. What does matter is their presence makes people in the downtown area feel unsafe — a feeling that the story seemed to capitalize on by taking one woman’s career of theft and making readers believe that the thousands of street kids in Portland are just like her.
The fact that crime is down in the downtown area doesn’t seem to get much attention in the continued quest to demonize the victims of abuse and neglect, which is the true crime. It’s easier to pander to the sense of insecurity that has been birthed in this country by the media, rather than go after the real criminals.
The fact is that in this country, one of every three girls is the victim of sexual abuse, usually committed by a family member or someone close to them. Yet their abusers walk around downtown, and no one complains.
Those are the people who make me feel unsafe. Those are the real bad guys. Stop child abuse, and the street-kid problem will go away.

No comments: