November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month

Homeless YouthEach year more than 1.5 million children are homeless at some point in their lives, and that number is increasing.” That quote comes from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and shows just how big an issue  Youth Homelessness is.  Whether the child is a runaway, an orphan or hitting hard times with their family, being on the street exposes them to many dangers – increased likelihood of substance abuse, early parenthood, impulsivity, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a vulnerability to being trafficked.

Almost 40% of those who are currently homeless are under the age of 18, according to Covenant House.  They also state that in the United States, as many as 20,000 kids are forced into prostitution by human trafficking networks every year.  With statistics like these, it’s no wonder that the month of November has been designated as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, when temperatures are dropping across the nation.

Here are some great sites with information for various groups to get involved and help stamp out homelessness:

National Homeless Youth Awareness Month (November 2011)NCTSN

What Is Family Homelessness?The National Center on Family Homelessness

National Alliance to End Homelessness

If you are a shelter, this would be a great time to reach out to your supporters and enlist them to help.  Break down the need into bite-sized chunks to encourage involvement as focusing on the big picture can be overwhelming.  Be specific about what your shelter needs.  Maybe you have enough food donations, but not enough clothes.  Maybe you have the workers/volunteers, but not enough money to buy beds.  Maybe you have enough size 1 diapers, but not enough size 5’s.  Also, make it a family affair.  Brainstorm ways for parents AND their children to get involved and come serve.

If you are not a shelter, or an organization offering homelessness assistance, here are some ways that you can get involved:

  • Find a local shelter that works with homeless youth and learn about what is being done in your community to fight youth homelessness.
  • Volunteer your time by serving food at these shelters.  Many teens who are homeless are not getting the education they need to succeed in life once they reach adulthood.  Volunteer as a tutor to help these youths get or stay on track to a high school diploma or GED.  Proper job training can be vital to helping kids interview for a job and keep that job to meet their basic costs of living like rent.
  • Volunteer on a search group to find homeless youths and help bring them to the shelter where they can get assistance and be provided with resources to help get and keep them off the streets.
  • Donate much needed materials to shelters.  As winter creeps ever closer, homeless shelters struggle to keep enough blankets, towels and coats in their facilities to meet the needs.  Other items needed are shampoo, soap, new socks and undergarments and much more.  Contact your local shelter and ask what their biggest need is, then coordinate a drive with your workplace, place of worship and community.
  • As a non-profit, you may have a related service you provide. Have you thought about working a collaboration with a local shelter? Sharing resources in this economy is a great way to continue to meet needs without going over budget. For example, a community garden program could donate their fresh vegetables to the shelter for healthy dinners.  A women’s quilting club could come together and donate their finished blankets.  The possibilities are endless.

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This article was featured in the November 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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Burnout

Most jobs come with their fair share of stress. The non-profit world is no different. It’s easy to find yourself in a place where stress has boiled itself over into burnout. Here are some signs, symptoms and tips for recognizing burnout and getting rid of it.

Dictionary.com defines burnout as “fatigue and frustration from too much work and stress.” HelpGuide.org takes it a bit further by calling it “a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.” These definitions make a distinction between stress and burnout in that stress can cause burnout, but it is not burnout itself.

Burnout is a feeling of overwhelming that reduces a person’s productivity. It takes energy away and makes a person feel helpless, hopeless, cynical and resentful. Here are some signs that you may be heading to a burnout:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Your responsibilities at work and home seem to be a waste of energy to care about.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • Most of your daily tasks seem overwhelming or mind-numbing.
  • You feel completely unappreciated.

Nathan Hand of School on Wheels in Indianapolis recommends scheduling time to do everything and a time to do nothing. The “doing nothing” should include unplugging and shutting down from technology. Schedule time with your family. Schedule time to reflect on what happened that week and on any future goals. He says, “We need to refresh, we need to rejuvenate, because we’ll be so much better after.”

In non-profits, a lot of emotion is poured into lives and causes and this can become draining if a person doesn’t have an inlet for refreshing. Here are some tips for preventing burnout:

  • Start the day with a relaxing ritual, about 15 minutes of something calming, ie., gentle stretches, meditating, reading something that inspires you, writing in a journal, etc.
  • Start living healthy – eat healthy, exercise more and get more sleep. A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to keep your body energized and equipped to handle daily stress.
  • Set boundaries. The hardest word to say sometimes is “no,” but it is essential to free you to say “yes” to other things.
  • Take a daily break from technology. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but make sure you set a time each day to disconnect from your computer, phone, email, etc.
  • Be creative. Creativity can really ward off burnout. Whether you pick up an old hobby or try something new, add something new and interesting into your life, completely unrelated to work.

Here’s the full HelpGuide.org article on Burnout.

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This article was featured in our monthly newsletter, Bridgeworks Connect.
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