Each day 13 young people die on the streets of the United States – that is the message of Stand Up for Kids, a national nonprofit organization whose Los Angeles chapter held a Homeless Youth Vigil by the Beach on the Venice Ocean Front Walk on Thursday evening, November 13. November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, and the group chose the date “to commemorate the 13 homeless kids that die on the streets every day.”
Several dozen people gathered to hear remarks by actor Skeet Ulrich (Scream, Jericho), to light 13 candles and release 13 balloons, and to listen to music on the boardwalk, including a bluesy rendition of “Stormy Monday” performed by Gwen, one of Venice’s homeless.
Ulrich said that he had not been aware of the size of the problem until he was asked to speak at the vigil. “If you took all the homeless street kids in the United States and gathered them in one place, it would be the seventh largest city in the country,” he said. He called on those gathered to assist Stand Up for Kids and “provide a sign of hope” for homeless youth.
The Los Angeles chapter goes out on the streets two nights a week -– Tuesdays in Venice and Sundays in Hollywood – to find kids and provide food, hygiene products, clothing, and blankets. Director of Outreach/Venice Alison Hurst said the group hopes to raise funds for a drop-in center for kids. Although there are homeless drop-in centers in Venice and Santa Monica, such as those operated by St. Joseph Center and OPCC, Hurst said that young people often stayed away from places that served adults since in many cases it was abuse by adults that put the kids on the streets in the first place. The group concentrates on “throwaway” kids under age 22.
Stand Up for Kids, which says it has no political or religious affiliation, has a network of more than 5,000 volunteers and has been reaching out to homeless and at-risk youth for more than 15 years; it operates in more than 30 cities in the nation. The local group can be reached at 310.597.0394 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.