“Youth on the Move” raises awareness on runaway and homeless youth in the Fox Valley

Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 5:04 PM CST
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - The Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley is spending the month raising awareness on runaway and homeless youth. The campaign is called “Youth on the Move.”

“Each November we want to try to do something to bring a little awareness to this population,” said Katie Van Groll, Director of Home Base.

Home Base is a Fox Valley Boys and Girls Club program focused on serving runaway and homeless youth.

She says in 2019 the Appleton Police Department had 118 reported instances of runaway and the Appleton School District identified 301 homeless youth in the 2019-2020 school year.

“It’s important that we focus on that word identified because there are a lot of youth, and adults, and families that go unidentified and they are homeless and we don’t know about them,” said Van Groll. “So while 301 in itself is alarming, it’s likely more than 301.”

She says lack of resources from adults, conflict at home, or mental health can all contribute to the issue.

“It doesn’t exist because they’re bad people or because they made terrible mistakes or any of those things. There are things going on that create homelessness, that create a youth to feel like they need to run from a situation,” said Van Groll. “And especially when we talk about young people, they need more support than ever before because they don’t have access to resources and it can come down to [that] they choose shelter over safety.”

Van Groll says since the pandemic they’ve been getting less referrals than before, which might not be a good thing.

“The concern with that is that these youth are less accessible to help and support. That we see them even less than we did before. That they are stuck inside in unsafe situations,” said Van Groll.

During November, runaway and homeless youth prevention month, Home Base runs “Youth on the Move” as an awareness campaign.

“Our goal of this is to bring light to the fact that they are here, and they are in our community,” said Van Groll.

Several community organizations including the Appleton Police Department, Appleton Public Library, Trout museum of Art, Diverse and Resilient and more are posting signs or making murals to try to get the word out about Youth on the Move.

“We’re a small team, we’re a small agency, and without these supports and these people behind us and working together we wouldn’t be able to help these young people,” said Van Groll.

The signs have a QR code that will take people to a website a map of all the groups participating in Youth on the Move, plus information about the issue and how people can help kids in the community get their basic needs met.

“It takes a village to do that, it takes everybody in the community to support everybody,” said Van Groll.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Home Base and Youth on the Move.

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