Locals working to provide housing for unaccompanied homeless you - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Locals working to provide housing for unaccompanied homeless youth

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Last year, local high schools began keeping track of the number of what they call "unaccompanied homeless youth."

During the 2014-2015 school year, it's estimated that San Luis Obispo County had 248 teens couch surfing or staying with a family other than their own. Fortunately, there is some help available for these kids.

Among the unsung heroes making a difference are Nipomo High School teacher Jorine Wack.

"You look into their eyes and you realize, 'If i don't do this, no one is going to take care of this person,'" Wack says.

Wack has been teaching at Nipomo High for 14 years. She has had a handful of students stay with her and her family.

"I can easily say there are three or four people who I would move into my house right now. It's a far bigger problem, especially on a temporary basis, than I think people understand," she said.

Situations for these teenagers vary from abuse to having a parent who is hooked on drugs or alcohol. Wack says it's often hard to get teenagers into the foster program, mostly because of their age.

"We are trying to put together a home where kids can stay temporarily or until they graduate or shortly thereafter," said Wack.

Wack and others are working to create safe places for teenagers to sleep, eat and shower.

"Once you are able to take care of that basic need for them, they are able to address the other needs in their life," said Danielle Veatch, founder of the Central Coast Dream Center. "We hope to have a network of homes that will be able to address different homeless or unaccompanied youth, and as we get different referrals, we will be able to help address their needs."

Veatch's goal is to have ten host homes by next year.

"Everyone has their own experience, their own story, but at least giving them a chance -- and as long as they are in it and the host family is in it, then a lot of great things can happen," Veatch said.

All California high schools are now trying to keep track of the number of unaccompanied homeless youth. But for years, there have been services available at area high schools.

"Each school district has a homeless liaison who helps all homeless students in the district to have stable school experiences," said Jessica Thomas, program coordinator for San Luis Obispo County Office of Education's Homeless and Foster Youth Services. "They make sure that youth are enrolled in school, have free meals at school, free transportation to and from school. The homeless liaison can help connect students not only to services within school, but also outside services."

Advocates say these services can have big impact. Wack thinks unaccompanied homeless youth deserve a chance.

"They are always looking for what you want from them, and when they realize you are doing it because that is what they deserve, they are pretty overwhelmed. They are human beings," said Wack.

The numbers of "unaccompanied homeless youth" in Santa Barbara County won't be out until later this month.

For more information about the Central Coast Dream Center, click here.

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