Each year, during the final Wednesday of January, Charlotte-Mecklenburg conducts an annual Point-in-Time Count. This action is intended to capture the number of people experiencing “literal homelessness” in the community. “Literal homelessness” is defined as residing overnight in an emergency shelter; safe haven; transitional housing facility; or in an unsheltered location unfit for human habitation.
The 2022 Point-in-Time Count will spotlight the issue of youth homelessness, which is defined as unaccompanied individuals or parenting households between the age of 18 and 25 who are experiencing homelessness. The Youth Advisory Board (YAB), which is supported by The Relatives and comprised of youth with lived experience of homelessness will conduct a youth-led initiative coined “Reach One, Teach One”.
Reach One, Teach One aims to give a voice to youth experiencing homelessness – a population that is often hesitant to share their housing status and experiences homelessness in ways that differ from the traditional perception of sleeping on the street.
This week’s blog shares insight from a representative of the YAB, Dajhun Mack, 22, and ultimately, what this means for Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
Why did you call the initiative “Reach One, Teach One”?
Reach One, Teach one is an opportunity to inform youth about different stuff they can do: help them if they are homeless or prevent them from becoming homeless. I know a lot of homeless youth myself; if they don’t know about the resources available, they won’t be able to get the help they need. Reaching out to the youth as their peers and informing them of the resources available can help them get what they need.
What do we need to know about youth homelessness?
It’s a broad spectrum really: every youth that is homeless doesn’t classify themselves homeless because they may be couch-surfing or have some family that may help them out. A lot of times they don’t want to involve people in their business by sharing their housing status. In the black community, you don’t ask for help. If you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist. I feel that If youth had more opportunities and given the necessary tools they need, it could prevent them from becoming homelessness and get into stable housing. The biggest barrier is youth not knowing about all the different programs out there to help them. It’s the knowledge of sharing the different programs in the community that can help.
Why should people care about youth homelessness?
There’s a lot of different reasons. First, economically you want youth to be in a stable place because that is who will be in charge one day. Boosting the community up and helping youth while they are young makes a big impact on the future. If youth stay on their initial path of homelessness that will take away from people who could possibly be CEOs if they had more opportunities If we intervene while people are young their potential to reach greatness is better.
Mentally, access to resources will help all these young people. If you’re in a mental state where you feel you will never be more than where you are because of your housing status, then you’re not going to try to achieve more. You could be in a mental state that would cause you to become complacent instead of striving to improve or be different because that’s all they know. Homeless youth grow up to be adults that tend to get into a lot of trouble because they only know one thing. Homelessness and survival crimes are all you know to meet your immediate need. They’re thinking more in the moment then the rest of their life.
What’s going to happen differently this year with the youth-focused PIT Count?
The count will be more accurate. The youth will be able to talk to us and hear how the resources helped. They’ll feel more confident hearing firsthand that they can get help. When you’re going through that – because you’ve been homeless and you’re constantly giving your information to social services – it doesn’t seem like they’re really going to help and change your situation. If I’m talking to someone who lived it, it would give me more confidence to actually ask for help.
We can level with people experiencing homelessness. Young people like myself tend to think “well you’ve never been where I am, so you’re not going to be able to feel how I’m feeling, you don’t understand.” If you talk with someone who can connect with you it makes you more open to the different opportunities.
We’re going to the places we know we can talk directly to the youth – local alternative schools, the On Ramp Resource Center, Charlotte Transit Center, and other locations in Uptown.
Why is this year’s PIT Count important to you?
I’m excited about the PIT Count because I have not only experienced homelessness alone, now as a young adult, but also when I was living with my mom as a child. My mom asked for help when it came to her kids, she put her pride aside because she knew we needed it. She was able to find programs to help us as a family. I want people to know you’re not by yourself, a lot of people feel this way. There are a lot of people that have been where you are and gone through what you’re going through and made it out of it. So, you can too. You just have to be given the right tools, and have a toolbox to hold them.
I hope to see more people getting help, the help and housing that they need. Even if it’s as small as getting their GED and able to get a job. The bigger picture is getting an accurate number of homeless. I was homeless last year and I know I wasn’t counted. If you give someone a better outlook on something you never know how that will turn someone’s life around. I hope this project will impact not just the numbers but to do something to help individuals and lead to the proper funding to actually help. The number is important but it’s about the people.
To learn more about the 2022 Point-in-Time Count, including how to support this important effort, please visit: www.everybodycountsclt.org.
The Relatives’ Youth Action Board currently consists of young adults (18-24) with lived experience who participate in the services offered by the On Ramp Resource Center although it is not exclusively for clients of The Relatives. The role of the Youth Action Board is to advocate for homeless youth, educate policy makers and service providers, speak at conferences, and educate their peers about community resources, while building skills that will be transferrable to future employment. Members include Dajhun Mack, LaJay Myrick, Kai Camp, Khaliya Freeman and Raevyn Guesswalker.