Catholic Charities of Lubbock has increased its efforts to help combat the homeless youth crisis in the northwest Texas city.
“We want to respect the dignity of every single person and life throws everybody in different directions and situations,” said Cynthia Quintanilla, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Lubbock.
“I just think it’s important that we try to meet their needs and try to meet them where they’re at,” she told CNA.
According to a recent poll by the city, more than 600 minors are homeless in Lubbock. Quintanilla said these kids, aged 10-17, will often rotate nights at different friends’ houses. She said some of the children will sleep in cars or actually live on the street.
“A lot of it has to do with problems they are facing at home – some of it is family conflict, some of [it] might be abuse, some of the problems might be lack of communication or parents just struggling to raise a number of children and the oldest child is left to fend for themselves,” she said.
Quintanilla expressed concern that these children not only lack family support, but are also at increased risk of dangers such as sex trafficking.
However, many homeless kids do not reach out for help, she further added, noting that these young people fear “they’re going to get caught up in a system that is not to their advantage.”
Catholic Charities has partnered with multiple groups, like law enforcement and schools, to increase their chances of being able to offer support. Quintanilla said the organization will often be notified by school districts, who use questionnaires to ask students on their living situations.
One of the new initiatives of Catholic Charities is putting up “safe place” signs in 192 sites, including libraries and grocery stores. The children are then able to talk to the employees at any of those sites and ask to be put in contact with the organization.
Quintanilla said the organization will help kids with food, clothing, and other basic necessities. She also said Catholic Charities will provide temporary housing, if the local shelters have space, and job training.
“We really try our best to meet them where they’re at. We just try to provide them with some of the basic needs that we can,” she said.