November is Youth and Homeless awareness month and the city of Chula Vista brought awareness to the issue.
Approximately 100 people wearing green gathered at a rally and resource fair hosted by SBCS and walked over 1.2 miles to spread awareness on Youth Homelessness.
In collaboration with health, community and educational partners in the South Bay, a plethora of resources were offered at the Youth Homelessness Awareness Resource Fair. The rally ended at City hall where Mayor Mary Casillas Salas proclaimed the week of Nov.14 through Nov.20 as Hunger and Homeless awareness week.
SBCS (formerly known as South Bay Community Services) is an organization that offers support services to anyone that needs it since 1971. According to the organization, people under 25 are considered to be youth, and those who are LGBTQ or POC are at a higher risk of experiencing homelessness.
Deena Denato-Palmore, Student Support Services counselor and Youth in Transition liaison for the Sweetwater Union High School District saw a rise of emergency shelters and hotel vouchers with the end of the eviction moratorium in September.
“If there is no hope for them, then they won't see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope for them. Their present does not influence their future. Awareness is out there, and we hope people don't stigmatize homelessness. We hope to bring awareness to the different kinds of homelessness that is experienced by our students,” Denato-Palmore said.
According to Josh Baker with SBCS, San Diego Youth Services, another nonprofit organizations organized and hosted rallies in down town prior to the pandemic. Collaborating partners decided to hold rallies in all four corners of the county due to the pandemic.
“Since we represent the southern region, we were given the opportunity to create and display this positive energy in the work our colleagues are doing on a daily basis,” Baker said.
Baker, along with Program Coordinator Alexis Johnson lead the rally to city hall while citing statistics regarding youth homelessness. Chula Vista resident Micheal Bates participated in the walk in solidarity with the organization, and was moved by facts presented during the rally.
“I had no idea until recently, and just hearing the statistics that at any given night, 15,000 homeless youth are on the streets should raise everyone’s eyebrows. This is something that needs the attention of everyone. We need to figure out how to bring more resources and more awareness to this issue so that we end it,” Bates said.
Guest speaker Alexa Colmenares, Peer Support Counselor for SBCS spoke about her lived experience as a homeless youth “navigating the world alone”.
“There are people out there that will support you and will believe in you. What I told myself back then was “as long as you don't stop”. I don't see failure anymore as a weakness, or the worst thing. I see it as a lesson. Giving up is the worst thing because nothing really changes if you give up,” Colmenares said.
San Diego Youth Services, San Diego Youth services and YMCA work alongside SBCS in aiding youth with housing, support services and mental health services. According to SBCS, the community can help by volunteering with an organization, giving financial donations, helping someone or simply just asking if someone is doing okay.