Sam Riviera is a frequent and popular contributor to this blog. Many of his posts on loving your neighbors and ministering to the homeless are consistently among the most popular articles on this blog. As I type these very words, one of his articles about homeless people has received several thousand pageviews in just two days.
Based on his many years of friendship with lots of homeless people in San Diego, Sam Riviera has learned the stories of several of them, and, with their permission, is writing their stories in the form of letters to their dads. These are the letters that they might have written to their dads.
Below is a brief explanation of the purpose of these letters, and some links to resources for you to learn more and get involved.
What is the purpose of writing the Letters to Dad?
First of all, hopefully they will open the eyes of parents who are considering throwing out or abandoning their kids. Many parents do not know what life on the streets is going to be like for their kids. These letters will let them know.
Many of these children will survive by selling their bodies.
Many will become thieves.
Many will become addicts.
Some will never make it off the streets alive.
Secondly, hopefully they will open the eyes of those who follow Jesus to what is happening across America to homeless and runaway teens.
Can we allow this to continue?
Why are there so few temporary and even fewer long-term beds (shelters) for these kids? (The kids usually are not safe in adult shelters.)
Do we have anything to say to “Christian” parents who are about to or already have thrown out their kids because they’re gay, on drugs, having sex or doing other things the parents do not accept?
Religion and the Homeless
One tragic thing to note is that there is a significant relationship between religion and the homeless, runaway kids.
Conservative Christian parents tend to throw out kids who go against their religious beliefs. Often the kids run away before their parents figure out the kid is gay, pregnant, using, a thief, etc. The kids are often afraid of how their parents will react. Sometimes they’re embarrassed or ashamed. Almost always they don’t want to talk to their parents about the “problem.”
If You Are a Parent…
This series of letters is not intended to pile guilt on the parents of troubled teens. Instead, they hopefully serve as a reminder for all parents to:
- Tell your children often that you will always love them, no matter what, and that they can always come to you with anything.
- Do not judge the homeless person or drug addict we pass on the street. Some of them lived through hell at home before entering into the hell on the streets.
The Goal of this Series
I would love it if the series could open up the conversation nationwide and send kids and parents to those organizations that can help, regardless of where they are at in the continuum the letters will describe.
I would also love it if the series would result in more beds available nationwide for homeless and runaway kids in our country.
We believe in this cause, and have made provisions in our trust to fund homeless and runaway teen programs, especially those with dedicated beds. Maybe this series of letters will encourage others to do the same.
A List of all the “Letters to Dad”
- Killing Me Softly With Your Jesus Songs
- I’m the Ice Queen Now, and You’ll Never See Me Again
- So far, I’m Not Doing Drugs
- He’s Better off Dead if He’s Gay
- Help! I’m Trapped!
More Resources about Troubled Teens
Although statistics vary, and probably no one knows the exact number of runaway and homeless youth in the USA who are living in the streets, alleys, canyons, beaches, parks, under bridges and any other place they can find, almost everyone agrees there are at least one million homeless and runaway kids in our country. This number does not include those who are “couch surfing”, living temporarily with friends.
The purpose of the “Letters to Dad” series is to tell the stories of a cross-section of these kids. Why are they homeless? Where are they sleeping? How are they surviving? What happens to them when they’re homeless? Why are they invisible to many of us? How can we help them survive and ultimately get off the street?
Below you will find links to numerous sites that give statistics and information about homeless and runaway youth, including programs that provide services to these kids. You may not agree with some of the beliefs shared on these links. We do not agree with all of them. They are here for your information. Explore them and use the information and resources you find useful.
We will continue to add more links to information and resources as the series continues. If you are aware of sites with information or resource for homeless and runway youth, post the links in a comment on any of the “Letters to Dad.” We will review the sites and add the most helpful ones to the links below.
Some of these sites are Christian. Some are not. While we have reviewed each site, we have not read all of the thousands of posts and articles that can be accessed through these links. We cannot attest to the accuracy of the statistics these sites report. Remember, some of the information is statistical, based on the statistics gathered by that site. Some of the information is based on experience, interviews and opinion.
Statistics vary by location and when the statistics were gathered. At least one runaway and homeless teen program of which we are aware, for example, reports that their group usually consists of about 10% LGBTQ teens, while another program in another city reports that their group is usually about 60% LGBTQ. Gender, age, economic background, race and many other demographics vary widely in the homeless and runaway youth population, and vary by program and location. What do these kids have in common? They are trying to survive in difficult circumstances. Most of them do not have a place they can call home.
Links about Homelessness in America
- Report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty
- Homeless and Runaway Youth Fact Sheet and Report by The National Conference of State Legislatures
- Fact Sheet about Homeless Teens
- NRCDV Homeless Youth Toolkit
- National Alliance to End Homelessness
- Coalition for Homeless Youth
- National Runaway Safeline
Information about Homeless Foster Youth Who Have Aged Out of the System
- Resources for Teens Aging Out of the Foster Care System
- Story and Resources for Teens Aging Out of the Foster Care System
- Foster Kids and Homelessness
- KPBS Report on Former Foster Kids in California
- Children’s Rights Blog
- California organization providing life skills training for foster kids aging out of the system
Facts about LGBT Homeless Youth and Related LGBT Resources
- LGBT Homeless Info. and Resources
- “LGBT Youth, An Epidemic of Homelessness”, report
- Article about Homeless Gay Teens from Religious Families
- Numerous resources for LGBT teens and their families from a progressive Christian blog for families with gay children