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Arts & Life

Homeless Youth A Focus In November

Organizations that serve at-risk youth are focusing on runaways and homeless teenagers. November is National Runaway Homeless Youth Prevention Month.

Stephanie Graeb is the director of Eastern Regional Services for Volunteers of America Dakotas. She says young people at-risk of running away need help, but they aren’t the only ones. 

"Volunteers of America Dakotas provides crisis intervention services to those individuals and families to work with families to prevent youth running away, whether that’s crisis counseling through our Family Crisis Intervention Program or just basic mediation and support to remedy those issues," Graeb says.

South Dakota doesn’t have the typical stereotype of homeless youth in tattered clothes living on the streets. But Graeb says the state does struggle with young people who run away from their families and are homeless.

"Youth who are at-risk or have run away from home are often still going to school," Graeb says. "They may be working or trying to find jobs, and they really are in need of just safe shelter and support."

Graeb says that’s especially true in rural areas where services aren’t readily available. She says V-O-A provides that security, but the organizations also offers crisis counseling as an opportunity to prevent young people from running away and becoming homeless. Graeb says it’s not always possible for youth to stay where they’re living. If home isn’t safe, VOA provides support and a secure place to live until a young person transitions to a more stable home.

Volunteers of America Dakotas is the only statewide program that provides outreach to runaway and homeless youth, according to Graeb. For additional information about services throughout South Dakota, visit the Volunteers of America, Dakotas website.