5 Organizations Helping Homeless And At-Risk Youth

Being homeless is a tragic and strenuous situation for anyone, but it's especially devastating for youth who are already so vulnerable to the abuses of our social and economic systems. Happily, many organizations are devoted to solving this crisis by offering shelter, services, and programs to help kids and teens rise above adversity and achieve long-lasting success. The ones included on this list are doing just that, in the US as well as Canada. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

5 Groups Assisting Youth Who Are Homeless or At-Risk

Organization Headquarters Location Mission
The Children's Lifesaving Foundation Los Angeles, California Transform the lives of under-served, at-risk youth and families living in homeless shelters and transitional housing through outdoor education, holiday events, and educational assistance and scholarships
Youth Without Shelter Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada Provide shelter and support programs for homeless youth ages 16-24 in a safe, nonjudgmental environment
Larkin Street Youth Services San Francisco, California Create a continuum of services that inspires youth to move beyond the street
Harlem Lacrosse New York City, New York Empower the children who are most at risk for academic decline and dropout to rise above their challenges and reach their full potential
Second Chance San Diego, California Disrupt the cycles of incarceration and poverty by helping people find their way to self-sufficiency

Fixing the Homelessness Crisis for LGBTQ Youth

American Children Living in Poverty

Percentage of children ages 0–17 by family income relative to the poverty threshold, according to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics

Poverty Level 1980 1990 2000 2010 2011 2012 2014 2015 2016
Below 50% of poverty threshold 6.9% 8.8% 6.7% 9.9% 9.8% 9.7% 9.3% 8.9% 8.2%
50% - 99% of poverty threshold 11.4% 11.8% 9.5% 12.1% 12.0% 12.1% 11.9% 10.8% 9.8%

How Larkin Street is Eradicating Youth Homelessness

In Depth

Homelessness and poverty among children and youths can have devastating lifelong effects, often compounding existing issues of abuse and mental or physical illness. A growing number of organizations are responding to this challenge, working to provide shelter, counseling, and education to this vulnerable community, in hopes of empowering them to succeed and thrive despite the hardships they face. In no particular order, here are five groups offering important services to the young people who are at greatest risk.

Leading off our list at #1 is The Children's Lifesaving Foundation, a non-profit organization in Los Angeles that provides opportunities to under-served youth, and families without permanent housing. Its Camp for All program gives participants an enriching and enjoyable summer experience, in which they can encounter nature, play on the beach, and exercise their creativity; local teenagers can learn leadership skills as counselors-in-training. The group also organizes holiday parties and gift drives, through its Project Angel Wings effort, for at-risk and homeless children every year.

The CLF seeks to help young people with few other options achieve success, offering educational support with the Care through College Program, which provides tutoring, mentoring, and life skills coaching, as well as supplemental scholarships for higher education. It also enables entertaining cultural experiences for children and families in transitional housing, and collects necessities such as clothing and school supplies. Those who would like to assist with the organization's work can make a donation, or volunteer in one of its many programs.

Those who would like to assist with the organization's work can make a donation, or volunteer in one of its many programs.

Next at #2 is Youth Without Shelter, an emergency residence and referral agency, dedicated to helping young people in the Toronto area who lack permanent housing. It provides accommodations for those who have nowhere else to go, working with residents to help them transition into stable homes. Even after its clients move out of the shelter, the YWS After-Care Program continues to support them, offering services like laundry and food bank access. The organization is special-needs friendly, and welcoming to all regardless of gender identity.

Along with providing emergency assistance to those in crisis, YWS aims to set youth up for long-term success, offering training in general life skills as well as employment counseling. And through its Stay in School Program, it helps prevent young people from dropping out due to lack of shelter. The group's educational outreach initiative visits classrooms to dispel myths about homelessness, and distributes informational resources to the community at large. There are numerous ways to contribute to YWS, whether financially, through donations of goods, or as a volunteer.

Our #3 is Larkin Street Youth Services, a San Francisco nonprofit helping young people overcome homelessness. Since its founding in 1984 as a drop-in shelter, the organization has helped over seventy-five thousand clients in crisis to change their lives for the better. The group offers both emergency and long-term accommodations, in housing centers that also provide life skills training and counseling, acting as a resource for empowerment and success in addition to providing basic necessities.

The group offers both emergency and long-term accommodations, in housing centers that also provide life skills training and counseling, acting as a resource for empowerment and success in addition to providing basic necessities.

Larkin Street's efforts assist youths at every stage of their journey from homelessness to independence. They begin with outreach to bring supplies and informational resources to those on the streets, and follow up with medical and mental health services, as well as programs to help them achieve educational and employment goals. The organization also engages in advocacy for reforms to policies that harm the homeless, supporting proposals to expand housing access and support services. It welcomes contributions of all kinds, from donations, to volunteering, to hosting social events.

Next up, at #4, is the school-based nonprofit Harlem Lacrosse, which aims to uplift and encourage children who are at high risk for academic decline and dropout. The program recruits struggling or vulnerable students, in cities around the country, and uses team bonding and athletic focus to anchor a system that helps youths set and achieve academic goals. Program Directors act as mentors, providing study halls and tutoring, as well as helping their athletes envision and pursue entry into higher education.

The sport of lacrosse is integral to the organization's approach, both for its ability to foster interpersonal skills and a spirit of perseverance, and for its focus on competition at the post-secondary level. Participants are better able to succeed at every academic stage, achieving higher rates of attendance, high school graduation, and university admission, along with reporting increased confidence and emotional well-being. Those inspired by Harlem Lacrosse's mission can provide support as volunteers or donors.

The sport of lacrosse is integral to the organization's approach, both for its ability to foster interpersonal skills and a spirit of perseverance, and for its focus on competition at the post-secondary level.

Closing out the list at #5 is Second Chance, a nonprofit based in San Diego, which strives to help people of all ages break out of the cycle of incarceration and poverty. It provides important assistance to individuals who have become involved with the justice system, such as sober housing, employment readiness training, and even interview preparation. Through the county Reentry Court, it also supports those who are at risk for recidivism due to mental illness or substance abuse.

Second Chance offers numerous programs designed specifically for young people, such as the Youthful Offender Rehabilitation Program, which works to help those in juvenile detention correct the behavioral issues that have led them to incarceration. Its Youth Garden provides hands-on urban agriculture experience, as well as training in cooking, and workforce preparation. And the STRIVE Future Leaders initiative gives participants further education in occupational skills, along with mentoring and career development. Supporters can assist with donations or in-kind gifts to the organization.