Road Trip to Fight Youth Homelessness with Virgin Mobile, Sevenly and Ford

If you’ve been following me for any amount of time you already know I am a huge Virgin Mobile fanboy! In the past, Virgin Mobile in the U.S. and in Canada has supported Invisible People. It’s probably not news to you that Virgin Mobile has taken on the cause of youth homelessness. That alone is AWESOME! But what you might not know is that Virgin Mobile has actually funded their own Virgin Mobile RE*Generation House, a transitional living facility for homeless youth in Washington, D.C.

Virgin Mobile Free Fest

Youth homelessness is a crisis!

Getting an accurate count of any homeless demographic is nearly impossible, and with youth homelessness it’s even harder. In some cities you’ll see groups of “travelers” with almost uniform-type brown clothes and pit bulls, but the vast majority of homeless youth you’ll never see. They are couch surfing, often in horrible situations doing whatever they have to just to survive.

This year was the first official point-in-time count that looked at homeless youth, but they count according to what HUD (Housing and Urban Development) defines has homeless, which omits lots of people that should be counted. Although I do support counts and believe we need good data, I spent several hours the last two days just trying to come up with a simple number to share with you all. The end result is a headache and the conclusion that no one really knows. I did find this old data that, at last for me, the numbers are closer to what I see on the streets.

According to National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in 2007, approximately 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year. This study was done before our current economic crisis so numbers; especially with family homelessness and children are much higher today.

  • 39% of the national homeless population are children
  • 42% of homeless children are under 5 years of age
  • Of the 42%, only 15% are enrolled in pre-school
  • 38% of the homeless population have less than a high school degree by age 18
  • 50% of the homeless population report dropping out of school during the course of their education.

From National Coalition for The Homeless :

Many homeless youth leave home after years of physical and sexual abuse, strained relationships, addiction of a family member, and parental neglect. Disruptive family conditions are the principal reason that young people leave home: in one study, more than half of the youth interviewed during shelter stays reported that their parents either told them to leave or knew they were leaving and did not care. In another study, 46% of runaway and homeless youth had been physically abused and 17% were forced into unwanted sexual activity by a family or household member

Some youth may become homeless when their families suffer financial crises resulting from lack of affordable housing, limited employment opportunities, insufficient wages, no medical insurance, or inadequate welfare benefits. These youth become homeless with their families, but are later separated from them by shelter, transitional housing, or child welfare policies.

Residential instability also contributes to homelessness among youth. A history of foster care correlates with becoming homeless at an earlier age and remaining homeless for a longer period of time. Some youth living in residential or institutional placements become homeless upon discharge — they are too old for foster care but are discharged with no housing or income support. One national study reported that more than one in five youth who arrived at shelters came directly from foster care, and that more than one in four had been in foster care in the previous year.

What are WE going to do about it?

A few months back I went to an event. At that event a friend said I needed to connect with this other person and introduced me. This new friend and I exchanged contact information, and after some serious time past, we found ourselves on the phone. Neither of us knew why our mutual friend connected us, we just started to talk. Pretty much, that is how I was introduced to Sevenly and this road trip started.

Sevenly is a lifestyle brand that helps nonprofits and charities with fundraising and awareness. I drove to their offices today to record this video and I have to tell you – the more I learn about Sevenly – the more I am impressed! Make sure to visit Sevenly.org and sign up for their email list so you don’t miss the big announcement on Sept 16th.

So a road trip to help fight homeless youth and to support Virgin Mobile’s RE*Generation House just made sense. Starting today I am going…wait…WE ARE GOING to 7 cities in the U.S. to help share the story of youth homelessness. With the help of national and local homeless service providers, and all of you following along making sure the story gets shared, we are going to give our all to fight youth homelessness Invisible People style. Along the way,  we will also be sharing the amazing stories of those who have given their lives to help homeless youth,  ending at the RE*Generation House, which we will then highlight Virgin Mobile’s great work.

A really big thanks to Ford Motor Company for helping with a really cool ride that will help us cut costs. Ford is lending us a C-Max Energi, and I can honestly say, it’s the coolest ride I have ever driven.

I strongly believe we we can change our world tomorrow simply by what we purchase today. The more we all support brands that genuinely give back, the more positive change we will see.

Please share this post and let’s get some momentum going. You can follow along in real time by following @HardlyNormal. If I get too chatty for you follow @invisiblepeople, which is all homelessness and I like to call “hardly normal lite”. Make sure you’re following @VirginMobileUSA, @Sevenly, and @Ford. Plus, the tag #FreeFest is already on fire building momentum for Free Fest on Sept 21st.

Seriously, if we scream loud enough over the next 26 days about the homeless youth crisis in America, nonprofits in your own neighborhoods may find the support they need and Virgin Mobile will be able to continue their great work, and – and this is a big and -  we’ll show other brands that it is cool to support fighting homelessness.

  • http://raulcolon.net/ Raul Colon

    Great job once again my friend. Very proud of how you continue moving forward with all these efforts.

  • http://warrenwhitlock.com/social-media-expert Warren Whitlock

    thanks for the facts and for your continued passion to keep us informed and thinking

  • dianebrogan

    Wishing you all the best on your road trip Mark. Thank you @VirginMobileUSA, @Sevenly, and @Ford. We will be watching #FreeFest on September 21st.

  • http://www.amandamichellejones.com Amanda Michelle Jones

    i’m so glad you’re doing this – i know how frustrating it was for you to try and dig up some hard numbers. i look forward to this year’s road trip updates!!

  • Elaine Simons

    Mark if you come to Seattle I would be honor to take you on the Seattle homeless youth circut tour. Some if not many agencies may or may not let you in and with a camera on top of it. People are fearful of exploitation. I have been a homeless youth advocate going on over three decades. Both here and in NYC.
    Feel free to email me at esimons8721@gmail.com

  • Lindsay

    Mark thank you for sharing. This is an issue that needs to be continually raised so that those stats go down, and hopefully disappear forever. Another group doing some great work is Positive Tomorrows (@ptokc), a school that helps to support those who are homeless and help break the terrible cycle many of these children face. Thanks to your work, work like Positive Tomorrows, the support of funders like @Ford, @Sevenly, @VirginMobileUSA, we’re going to get close soon!

  • http://buildfutures.org Kathy Tillotson

    Mark,

    I greatly admire what you do raising awareness for the homeless. I work with Build Futures, an all volunteer nonrofit in Orange County, helping homeless youth 18 to 24 where Sevenly is headquartered and would love your help in connecting with them since the problem is very bad in their own backyard.

    Thank you!

Switch to our mobile site