The ﬁght against at—risk, hurting, and homeless teens continues to be a growing epidemic. Experts disagree about the exact number of homeless teens, because they can be diﬁcult to identify and count. High school students, in particular, often try to hide their homelessness, and stay under the radar, because they feel embarrassed. National statistics from the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homeless (9 ICPH) estimates thereare 1.3 homeless million youth in the United States and that three—quarters of them are couch-surﬁng, with most between the ages of 13—17.
There are many reasons why teens end up homeless. Some leave home after years of neglect, physical and sexual abuse, strained family relation-ships, the addiction of family members, and family economic problems. Teens can also become homeless when they are discharged from foster care, or other institutional settings, with no housing or income support.
James, a 16-year-old, hits the streets because his family is deep in poverty, which causes family conﬂict, leading to harsh and often unbearable abuse. James chooses couch surﬁng with friends, or sleeping in an abandoned building and developing asthma, a common issue for this homeless population. It goes untreated, and he starts missing school, and grades begin to drop, and he loses hope for a successful future. James needs a glimmer of hope!
With thousands of teens homeless on the streets struggling, founder Kim Hinkle Smith knew she had to be a part of the solution to halt this growing population. In 2004, Journey to Dream (JTD) set out on a mission dedicated to the support, and mentorship, of at-risk and homeless teens to overcome adversity and homelessness through education, practical life skills, and experiences that enable them to function as self-suficient, productive adults. With thousands of teens homeless on the streets struggling, our founder Kim Hinkle, knew she had to be a part of the solution to stop this.
JTD is premised on the belief that substantive and supportive curriculum-based programs can be a powerful catalyst for homeless, and at—risk teens, to be positively motivated to pursue education and healthy living goals.
Our Transitional Living Programs support teens who left home prematurely due to conﬂict or violence, or who have aged out of foster care with no place to live. These extremely vulnerable teens are provided with stable housing, life skills, and participate in counseling. Journey to Dream shelter and supportive services offer shelter, basic needs, life skills, counseling, and a training program to an often forgotten population.
“Early Intervention and Prevention Programs are critical, as many teens become homeless as a result of family problems, abuse, neglect, and financial difficulties. Intervening with already—homeless youth falls second to early intervention. Homeless youth need access to services that will help them regain stability in their lives, such as food, clothes, and housing. Along With meeting the housing, health (physical and mental), spiritual, and educational needs of homeless youth, Journey to Dream provides a supportive environment in which the youth can work on coping with their trauma, empowering them to become seIf—sufficient and emotionally healthy young adults," said CEO Nesa Grider.
Our teens are not unlike most American youth. Each teen that is experiencing homelessness has a distinct history, personal challenges and triumphs, and a unique story to tell. Cindy, age 15, said that coming to Journey to Dream’s Kyle’s Place from another placement facility gave her the life skills, opportunities, and structure that was lacking in her previous program. “I know that I will go on to do great things,” Cindy exclaims.
Since our doors opened, we’ve watched many teens learn, grow, and soar towards achieving goals they had only dreamed about. Our graduating residents have grown up to work closely within their church’s youth ministry, become advocates for teens in foster care, attend college, and join the military service. We’re proud of our teens and look forward to what they will continue to accomplish in the future. When they grow, we grow.
CEO, Nesa Grider shares, “Every day I am inspired and motivated by the teens that Journey to Dream serves through our outreach, advocacy school curriculum programs, and our residential living facility. Their stories on what led them to our doors reﬂect strength, survival, and resilience. They keep my life in perspective.”