This video about street kids broke my heart this morning.
I’ve seen street kids when I lived in Germany and China, like the naïve eight-year-old I was, I didn’t realize why someone who looked like me, was as tall as me, and smiled like me – had to be different and without. In college, I volunteered at a soup kitchen once a week in Judicial Square in DC. It didn’t bother me when patrons came in glaring or screaming obscenities at me (no fault of of their own, there were many with mental health issues that were off their medications). It didn’t bother me when people would come in suits and have a meal before they went job hunting. I saw firsthand how the image of homelessness changed after the 2008 economic crisis. It did bother me when a kid would come in and ask for food. I remember each of their faces.
As an adult, I’ve come to understand that street kids are everywhere – often referred to as “homeless youth” in the United States (http://www.americanstreetkid.com/) – to Kurdistan (Rwanga Foundation). They are at greater risk of human trafficking and child slavery, though this doesn’t happen to all street kids (see this blog post for a comprehensive background on the subject and further information).
Know that homeless youth that are additionally LGBTQI, of an ethnic or racial minority, and female are at a greater disadvantage and more likely to be discriminated. (This likelihood increases given a combination of two or more of the identities listed above. For a gentle introduction to the sociological theory of intersectionality, see here.)
See what you can do to help: from raising awareness (i.e. volunteering, posting on social media, etc.), donating (if you’re in a more fortunate financial situation than me), or simply by not ignoring a kid walking alone in tattered clothes (which every single one of us can do). Ignore critics of #slacktivism (read in support of it here and a general questioning of it here) for a few minutes to share with others what being a street kid looks like.
If you know of homeless youth, here are some resources to help them.
[Nerdy social scientist aside: pretty sure IRB would not have approved of the social experiment depicted in this video.]