KEZI News ran a great story on youth homelessness in Lane County. Looking Glass Community Services is the only nationally accredited Runaway and Homeless Youth provider in the state of Oregon and the only state licensed shelter for Runaway and Homeless Youth in Lane County.
SPECIAL REPORT: YOUTH HOMELESSNESS
EUGENE, Ore. -- An issue no one wants to see in our community, homelessness.
It is affecting the youngest in our area.
There are thousands of teens and young adults trying to survive every day, after running away from home or living on the streets.
But there are local nonprofits and survivors wanting to share their stories to put a stop to this problem.
The local nonprofit, Looking Glass, said youth homelessness is one of the biggest setbacks our community faces.
There are not enough resources to help everyone in need.
This nonprofit is making a difference in young people's lives every day.
"I just realized I'm so sick of how things are I want better than this," Jessica Russell, former shelter resident.
Twenty year old Jessica Russell, remembers the tough times in her childhood...
"It all starts with the fact that that I grew up in severe poverty," said Russell.
Russell lived in Sweet Home with her two brothers, her mom and her mom's boyfriend.
Starting at the young age of four, their family started dodging conflict, moving from one place to another.
"We never really lived anywhere longer than 8 months," said Russell.
By the age of 12 she had lived all over the state.
She put roots down anywhere from Sweet Home to Bonanza to Crescent.
During this time, she attended ten different.
"It was really hard because I loved school I had bad anxiety switching schools is really hard for me to make friends. I don't think I had a friend until I was 10," said Russell.
By the time she was 12, her family made it to Eugene but they were still living in confined and unstable environments.
"We were living in a family living room. I slept on the couch my mom on the love seat my brothers on a mattress on the floor," said Russell.
After a few years of living in another family's home, she and her family the family moved into an RV.
Even though Jessica was finally in one place, she still had a difficult time making school a priority.
"I couldn't shower regularly and it was out of town so I couldn't really get to school," said Russell.
Jessica said she wanted more from her life.
Her counselor told her about a local nonprofit that helps homeless and at risk youth.
"Looking Glass saved my life. I don't know where I would be without Looking Glass," said Russell.
When Jessica was 16 she found her way to the nonprofit.
Looking Glass staff worked with her and decided the latter housing project would be the best fit.
She moved into a studio apartment in Eugene and for the first time she was completely on her own.
Living by herself in a stable environment allowed Jessica to catch up on her credits and graduate high school.
But, Jessica is just one young adult receiving help from Looking Glass.
Officials with the nonprofit said youth homelessness is a growing problem in our area.
"The number of homeless youth and homelessness in our community now is unacceptable. We need to make better progress," said Craig Opperman, the president of looking glass.
Nonprofit officials said it is hard to come up with exact numbers of how many homeless youth are in our area because they are always on the move.
"A lot of them don't have a stable address a lot of them aren't really able to follow through on commencements because something may happen in their lives," said Opperman.
The nonprofit said they provide assistance to 32 youth each day and provides outreach services to more than 3,000 youth a year.
"They are on the streets for a reason, they are running away for a reason they have left a tough situation sometimes have been traumatized," said Opperman.
To help those young adults transitioning, they provide services ranging from counseling, to food, clothing shelter and education.
"I would rather help them at this stage, then have to pay for prisons later on hospitals later on, for the morgue later on," said Opperman.
Now Jessica is a part of that mission, giving back to a place that has given so much to her.
She is a newly hired night assistant at Station Seven.
She helps young adults adjust to staying at the shelter.
Now she is sharing her story and hopes to inspire other that may be where she once was.
Looking Glass also works closely with law enforcement and other community organizations to help anyone who needs assistance.
The nonprofit has a 24 hour seven day a week hotline, that anyone can call day or night to get access to services, to find a shelter or find help anywhere in the community.