Standard-Examiner launches 'Young & Homeless' campaign

Friday , January 31, 2014 - 7:57 PM

JaNae Francis, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — The Standard-Examiner today is launching an unprecedented newspaper-led campaign through SE Cares that will run throughout the year to address the needs of homeless youth in the Top of Utah.

The Young & Homeless initiative will focus the Standard-Examiner’s resources on addressing the issue of youth living on the streets.

Those closest to the problem say homeless youth are afraid to seek help because they are breaking the law. They say once young people separate themselves from their parents — some of whom are abusers or have kicked them out — they are criminals. Sometimes they hide to protect their abusers.

“This campaign is far and away the most exciting thing I’ve done in my career so far,” said Julie Paulson, Standard-Examiner marketing coordinator. “It’s been so incredible not only to have the opportunity to help with a cause that I feel passionately about in the community I love so dearly, but to work for an organization that is willing to put its money where its mouth is and eagerly contribute and lead by example.”

New today is a donation form on the Standard-Examiner’s Facebook page.

Information about the campaign will continue to be posted on the newspaper’s online media sources — cares.standard.net, thenewsstartshere.net and standard.net.

Those wishing to contribute funds for the next two months to help this cause also will earn matching funds from the Standard-Examiner.

The newspaper has earmarked up to $10,000 in matching funds, $1 per gift on the online donation page, said Standard-Examiner Publisher Charles Horton III.

The funds will be distributed in ways to be outlined by those who serve homeless youth in many different facets.

“We introduced SE Cares last summer to demonstrate our commitment to inform, inspire and strengthen the communities we serve,” Horton said. “Our Young & Homeless initiative is the first major program we are sponsoring under the SE Cares flag.”

Horton said among the resources the Standard-Examiner is putting toward the Young & Homeless initiative in 2014 are the newspaper’s daily print edition, expanded content available only online and the paper’s weekly SE Plus publication.

“Our social media channels, like Facebook and Twitter, will lead the charge to raise funds to help the homeless children in our community,” Horton said.

Those who study homeless youth in Utah believe there are thousands out there but they have no way to count them accurately.

“There is such a need,” Paulson said. “So many children in our area are scared, suffering and have no place to go.

“As I have learned more about the circumstances and situations of these children, my desire to help them has grown with such intensity. We need to step in where others have been unable to before this time,” she said.

“We need to give them a place where they can go to feel safe and loved and cared for. I am so grateful to be a part of this project and hope that the members of our community will feel the passion we have for it and will be eager to get involved.”

“As a mother, learning about the scope of homeless children really touched my heart,” said Karla Woodward, marketing director at the Standard-Examiner.

“I’m proud to work for a company that is willing to step up and put its resources behind not only raising awareness about youth homelessness, but helping to fund programs that will directly affect and improve the lives of these children in our own communities.”

Laura Warburton, a Huntsville resident and community activist who has created an enthusiasm for addressing youth homelessness, said she’s excited about the Young & Homeless initiative, calling it a miracle.

“It’s well thought out,” she said. “The Standard-Examiner definitely cares. I hope to make the best use of this campaign to create long-term solutions for the children.”

Warburton said last fall when she learned about children under 17 living on the streets without parents, her heart broke.

“It’s one of those life events that change you permanently,” she said.

A second shock came to her as she shared her concerns.

“Virtually everyone I spoke with assumed someone would take care of these kids,” she said. “They were shocked. I was shocked that no one knew. It felt like I was alone on the shores watching the Titanic sink.”

Warburton said she scrambled to find what she could do, finding a handful of others who desperately cared.

Among those was OUTreach Center, which in the course of serving a specific group of children, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender), the center became a place where homeless youth could go for a meal and to ask for clothing and other needed items.

“They could and do give them some basics to help with their survival, but that’s all,” Warburton said. “No overnight housing. No showers. No school. No long-term hope.”

Warburton’s first response was a cold-weather clothing drive.

“The Standard did an article on it and we were flooded with an incredible amount of quality donations,” she said.

Then when she learned about the Standard-Examiner’s Young & Homeless initiative, Warburton said she gained a sense of hope.

“I no longer felt alone on the shore watching a sinking ship,” she said. “Rescue crews were on their way. The joy and appreciation I felt was simply sweet.”

At the moment, Warburton is behind a bill Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, will sponsor in this legislative session that will give youth who run away more time than the current eight hours at an emergency shelter to get help before being turned over to the authorities.

The long-term solution Warburton envisions is a home, which she hopes may be more than an emergency shelter.

“These kids need four walls, a bed, a shower, the opportunity to overcome the emotional scars that brought them to the streets and the scars created on the street,” she said. “They deserve an education, to learn how to interview, to learn what it means to be loved.”

Warburton said education is the key to ending homelessness but no one can learn anything while in survival mode except what to do to survive.

“These children deserve more,” she said. “If we can save one child from a life of human slavery or living out of garbage cans, then it’s a project worth doing. We’ll save more than just one.”

Contact reporter JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228 or jfrancis@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @jfrancis.

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