Tents for homeless teens in Springfield

Published: Jul. 14, 2016 at 7:32 PM CDT
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New camping tents are being delivered to The Rare Breed, part of The Kitchen, Inc.

It's a place where homeless youth can hang out and get help during the day, but at night, many have no where to go.

"Sometimes when we close the doors at night these kids walk out and I think, he's literally going to go sleep on a sidewalk and it's just crushing," says Jenny Reynolds, a Youth Worker at Rare Breed.

Reynolds says Springfield doesn't have enough shelter beds for teens, meaning what few places that offer a warm, safe bed are consistently full and leftover kids are out of luck. Reynolds says Missouri law allows parents to abandon their children once they turn 17, without consequence.

"It's a shame that we have, any night of the year, hundreds of kids on the streets," says Jim Downing, referencing a study by the Springfield Public Schools which found there are more than 800 homeless students across the district, and that's not counting youth who may have dropped out or recently graduated.

All this is why Rare Breed gives tents to teens, to keep them off the bare ground.

"They're gonna go sleep under the bridge so we might as well give them some supplies to be safer and less at risk," says Reynolds.

A grant from Springfield Black Tie Inc. paid for $5,000 worth of camping supplies. Cherokee Firearms had access to whole-sale priced camping gear so Downing, who volunteers at Rare Breed but works at Cherokee Firearms, says they used the $5,000 to purchase what would have been valued around $10,000 at retail prices.

"Water filters, backpacks, sleeping bags, tents, cooking gear," says Downing, who teaches camping and survival to the youth at Rare Breed.

"We always need more tents. Come the winter especially it's going to be really critical," Downing says.

But clearly, sleeping in a tent isn't ideal.

"Any evening they're vulnerable. They can be robbed, raped, beat up or put in jail. So what we're doing here is really a stop gap. What we need in Springfield Missouri is somewhere for teenagers to go, whether it's a shelter or even a safe camping place," says Downing.

Something for us to think about when we climb into bed tonight.