A local nonprofit is asking 30 participants to take part in its Minimal Living Challenge to raise awareness for youth homelessness.
A bright green backpack, the color representing Homeless Youth Awareness Month, will be provided to each participant for the challenge. Volunteers will be challenged to live out of the backpack — using only clothing, hygiene items, shoes or other items that fit — from Nov. 15-22.
Participants should take the backpack with them everywhere they go and are asked to document their experience daily on social media. These individuals also will be asked to do an inventory of all belongings they are willing to donate on the sixth day of the challenge, Sunday, Nov. 21. On the final day, participants will be asked to return their backpacks with all donated items inside. Each item used by the participant in the backpack, including the backpack itself, will be donated to a young person experiencing homelessness in Kent County.
“We are looking for 30 participants who agree to live out of their backpack for one week to learn about how a youth experiences homelessness,” said Regina Dix, youth program coordinator at Mel Trotter Ministries. “The statistics are staggering. It’s often not until someone goes through the situation themselves that they truly understand what a youth on the streets goes through.”
November marks National Runaway Prevention Month and Homeless Youth Awareness month in Michigan, while Nov. 13-21 marks Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week. The organization hopes the challenge will bring awareness to these events, specifically youth homelessness.
More information, including how to participate, is at meltrotter.org/backpack.
Youth homelessness statistics provided by Mel Trotter Ministries
According to an Administration of Children and Families/Family and Youth Services Bureau Street Outreach Program study, one of the top three reasons reported for youth becoming homeless was due to physical abuse (23.8%) with a second reason being emotional abuse (20%) (acf.hhs.gov).
In 2020, nearly 26,500 runaways were reported to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and one in six were likely victim of child sex trafficking (1800runaway.org).
According to a report from the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and the National Network for Youth, more than 80% of providers reported juvenile justice involvement was a top contributor to youth homelessness.
Approximately 7% of youth in the U.S. are LGBTQ, while 40% of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ (1800runaway.org).
LGBTQ youth have over twice the rate of early death among youth experiencing homelessness (chapinhall.org).
Native American girls are at a much higher risk of experiencing physical and/or sexual violence. A 2016 National Institute of Justice Report found 84.3% of Native American women had experienced some form of violence in their lifetime.
56.1% had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime (ncai.org).
Approximately 80% of youth accessing drop-in at HQ and 3:11 Youth Housing are people of color, yet young people of color make up 41% of the population in Kent County (A.Y.A. Youth Collective).
Mel Trotter Ministries serves, on average, 400 youth per year.