The importance of cold weather shelters

According to the National Runaway Switchboard, there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living unsupervised on the streets on any given night. This has been a cold, wet winter in Austin, and our Emergency Shelter cannot meet the needs of every youth in crisis.

So what happens to the homeless youth that have no place to go when it’s rainy and/or the temperatures drop below freezing? They seek out a shelter that provides immediate, although temporary, protection from the elements. For youth under the age of 23, that place is LifeWorks.

By the end of the week we will have provided 20 shelters, serving 400 youth. This year’s demand is more than double the last 3 years combined and we are still expecting more cold days ahead! We do this in partnership with Micah 6 (a network of faith communities within the University of Texas area).

We give them not only safe shelter, but a meal, access to support services and make accommodations for their animal companions – something most other shelters will not do.

How does a young person end up on the streets?  LifeWorks was one of 12 organizations nationwide chosen for a recent research project that has provided a greater understanding of Austin’s homeless youth:

  • 83% report suffering verbal, physical or sexual abuse as children;
  • 44% were in foster care;
  • The average time spent homeless was 23.8 months;
  • 72% of youth said that they slept outside during that time (21% in a public restroom); and
  • 75% want to find a way out of homelessness.

These are not just statistics; they are youth who we pass on the streets every day. LifeWorks is a fearless advocate for youth and families seeking their path to self-sufficiency.  We must help youth off the street.  If they do not know where they will sleep or where their next meal will come from, then there is very little chance they can commit to a job or their education.

While we provide a full continuum of services and housing, the public funding the programs receive do not come close to covering the cost of doing them well.  LifeWorks is dedicated to measurable results for our youth and community AND we need your help.

Your donation not only helps to keep these vital resources available to the youth that are in need; but it makes the difference between a shelter that is merely open and one that can make an impact in the self-sufficiency of our youth.

To learn more about LifeWorks or to make a donation, please visit, www.lifeworksaustin.org

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