FRIDAY 5: Helping Homeless Youth

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November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month and a good time to think about how to help children and teens who find themselves without permanent homes. It’s a bigger problem that you might think – according to The National Center of Family Homelessness, each year one in 50 American kids experience homelessness.

We want to use this Friday Five to highlight some of the amazing people and programs supporting homeless teens – and inspire you to make a difference for struggling youth in your own community.

ONE: Zoe Damacela (pictured here), the winner of Seventeen Magazine’s Pretty Amazing contest grew up homeless, but is now is a fashion entrepreneur, selling her designs for as much as $300. But she still helps those in need, donating her clothes to homeless shelters and charity fashion shows.

TWO: DoSomething.org hosts an annual Teens for Jeans Campaign, which collects jeans to clothe homeless teens in the US (in 2010, 625,00 pairs of jeans were donated!). The next drive drive will start on January 16th and will run until February 12th. Read more about DoSomething here.

THREE: Joi Stevens learned about Seton Home — a program for homeless pregnant teens and teen moms in San Antonio — through her involvement with Girls Inc., and she wanted to make the young women’s lives better. Her idea: the Back 2 School Makeover. And she got right to work. “My mother and I went around the salon talking to different stylists about our idea and began working on getting sponsors and donations,” she told the San Antonio Express News. “Since it would be before the girls go back to school, I thought a school supply drive would be the perfect finishing touch.” Read more about her story here.

FOUR: 21-year-old social entrepreneur Veronika Scott created an innovative product design with a serious social impact. Her organization, The Empowerment Plan, stemmed from a student project in which she was challenged to “design to fill a need.” Her response to the challenge was to design a unique, insulated coat that transforms into a sleeping bag for the homeless population in Detroit. Find out how she did it here.

FIVE: In one Minnesota county, a grant provides art supplies to homeless shelters whose residents created art around the theme “Homelessness…the Journey.” Their art, along with sculptures from local high school art students went on display around the county library system. Art is a great way to raise awareness about — and create empathy around —  big issues. See more ideas about using creativity to help your cause here.

What are some of your ideas for raising awareness and supporting homeless youth in your community?

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