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November is National Runaway Prevention Month

OSWEGO, NY – It is estimated that 1.6 – 2.8 million youth run away each year.  If you put all of these youth in one city, it would be the 5th largest city in the United States.

In recognition of National Runaway Prevention Month Katie Meyer (center) of OCO Homeless Services presented members of the Oswego County Sherriff Department with green ribbons.  To show their support for OCO efforts to raise awareness of homeless youth in Oswego County the Sheriffs will be wearing green ribbons throughout November.  From left are Deputy Rob Obrist, Deputy Kristy Crast, Katie Meyer, Deputy Todd Masui C.C.A., and Sgt. Bill Bazzell.
In recognition of National Runaway Prevention Month Katie Meyer (center) of OCO Homeless Services presented members of the Oswego County Sherriff Department with green ribbons. To show their support for OCO efforts to raise awareness of homeless youth in Oswego County the Sheriffs will be wearing green ribbons throughout November. From left are Deputy Rob Obrist, Deputy Kristy Crast, Katie Meyer, Deputy Todd Masui C.C.A., and Sgt. Bill Bazzell.

That’s too many homeless youth.

These are good kids put in bad situations.

Statistics show that approximately 34% of youth reported being sexually abused before leaving home.

Approximately 46% of youth reported physical and/or emotional abuse before leaving home.

Other common reasons youth report for leaving are conflict between parent/ guardian, family economic problems, and transitioning from foster care or other public systems.

Runaway and homeless youth have an increased likelihood of high risk behaviors such as unprotected sex, multiple sex partners and intravenous drug use.

They also have a greater risk of severe anxiety and depression, suicide, poor health and nutrition and low self-esteem.

Approximately 75% of these youth have dropped out of school or will drop out of school.

As your reading this article you might be thinking, “Does homelessness exist in Oswego County?”

You may not find homeless youth in Oswego County in the “normal” places.

They probably will not be sleeping under a bridge or in a cardboard box in an alley way.

Most homeless youth in the county do what is called “couch surfing.”

They move from friend to friend sleeping on a couch, floor, or wherever someone has room for them.

In recognition of November being National Runaway Prevention Month, OCO’s Homeless Services Program will be busy spreading the word and educating the community on the issue of homeless youth in Oswego County.

Staff will be educating the public on what services are available for homeless youth in the county and what they can do to help.

Each year, OCO’s Homeless Services program provides services (food, clothing, shelter, and case management services) to hundreds of homeless youth in Oswego County.

In 2014, OCO worked with 920 youth under the age of 21 who were homeless or at risk of being homeless.

These 920 youth received 2603 emergency items throughout the year including clothing, food, and hygiene items.

To help assist runaway and homeless youth in Oswego County, OCO has just opened up a four-bed homeless shelter, licensed through the Office of Child and Family Services.

This is a voluntary program for youth ages 16 through 20.

Youth can stay up to 30 day and are provided with 24 hour supervision, case management, counseling, recreation, life skills building, and meals.

If you have questions about the youth shelter or you know someone under the age of 21 that has housing issues please contact OCO’s 24 hour Crisis Hotline at 342-7618 or toll free at 1-888-342-7618.

One way the community can help a homeless/runaway youth is to make a donation of gently used clothing, hygiene supplies, and non-perishable food.

Homeless Services staff maintains a donation closet containing these items and is always looking for help keeping it stocked.

This year, with the help of AmeriCorps members we will also be hosting a donation drive at local area high schools, businesses and organizations in Oswego County during the month of November.

If you or your organization/club would like to help sponsor the Homeless Services closet, please contact Jill Fratangelo, OCO Homeless Services program manager at 315-216-6143, or email [email protected]

Youth Emergency Services through OCO are funded by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and Oswego City/ County Youth Bureau.

OCO is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966.

A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 80 separate locations.

For more information, visit www.oco.org