BEND, OR -- A Thursday event in Bend aims to bring attention to the struggles of runaway teens who frequently end up homeless. Eliza Wilson, with J Bar J Youth Services, says runaways often feel they have no other choice, "Many times, when a young person is running away, it is that they’re running away from abuse or neglect situations in the place that they’re staying."
Wilson tells KBND News, "Central Oregon has some of the highest rates of unsheltered youth who are experiencing homelessness in the country. We work diligently to provide prevention services; so trying to prevent youth from even ever experiencing homelessness. And then, also to support youth who are experiencing homelessness so the experience is brief, and they don’t go on to become adults who experience homelessness." She says there is an overall shortage of services for teens, "We have 18 beds at The Loft. We have host homes throughout the community, but we always need more host homes. And then, we also have Grandma’s House of Central Oregon, that is a home for pregnant and parenting teens. And that home has nine rooms." Click HERE for more information on those programs. Wilson adds, "We don’t have the number of shelter beds that we need to address the issue. But also, we are an affluent community and many times that means there’s not housing for people that are lower income."
In coordination with National Runaway Prevention Month, J Bar J hosts Thursday's event at Silver Moon Brewing, 4-6 p.m. Wilson says there will be booths and raffles, "To raise awareness around our local youth who are experiencing homelessness and then also to give the community an opportunity to learn about the programs of J Bar J that are working with the youth of Central Oregon." They’ll also provide information on becoming a host home for unsheltered teens, including compensation and training.