Local group fights youth homelessness, reviews recent study results

Imagine your child not having a place to sleep at night or wondering where they'll get their next meal.

It's a sad reality for a growing number of local young people. That's why a local group is fighting against youth homelessness.

"My first night, I slept under a bridge," 21-year-old Michael Freeman said.

"Just kind of sleeping on the streets, curled up somewhere, you know," 24-year-old Dakota Matheson said.

Most people don't know what it's like to be homeless.

"Selling drugs, trying to survive," Freeman said.

These young men were what most would consider "kids" when they ended up on the streets.

"Little Caesars actually, was one of the places I'd hit up during the night time because they threw away, literally, trash bags full of pizza," Matheson said.

Matheson says its was the Rare Breed, a local organization that helps homeless youth, that helped him get on his feet.

"I really do think a lot of the people here because they helped me get through," Matheson said.

A recent survey of local homeless and at-risk teens shows youth homelessness is a growing problem.

"70 percent of young people have couch-surfed on their own," MSU Sociology Student Alicia Carter said.

That's why the Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness, a group of leaders from the Rare Breed and other organizations like it, met to review the report and make plans to continue and improve youth homelessness services.

"76 percent of teens said that Springfield needs more long-term transitional housing for the youth," Carter said.

"Prevention is key to keeping them from becoming homeless youth. Then, once they're homeless youth, you give them housing and wrap around services to prevent them from becoming a future homeless adult," MSU Sociology Professor Dr. Tim Knapp said.

Youth who've been there say, without services like emergency shelters, support, and transitional housing, their lives might be different.

"I actually live out on my own and everything now," Matheson said. "I've gotten back up, you know."

The Rare Breed has already added seven new apartments to their community housing. The community partnership, as a whole, is making plans provide more shelter and services.