Bringing Homeless Youth Awareness to the Metro During Rush Hour Traffic

Leah Uko

OMAHA (KPTM) - You may have seen people standing with signs on several corners around Omaha Wednesday evening. They were part of an organization that raises awareness about homeless teens.

Mayor Jim Suttle declared November as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. In honor of the month and youth struggling with homelessness, Youth Emergency Services (YES) and Omaha metro volunteers rallied at seven different main streets to let youth know how their programs can help them.

Brad Guirdy is proof.

He moved away from his mom when he was 18-years-old. All his life, Guirdy said his mother was verbally abusive and struggled with drug addiction. Moving into one of the YES emergency shelters, he said was the best decision he ever made.

"[I'm] on track to get my high school diploma and going to a good college," Guirdy said. "I'm going to go to Tulane University in New Orleans."

He YES staff and mentors much credit to his success because of the guidance and advice they give him.

"If somebody in your life isn't helping you--isn't a positive for you then you don't need them."

YES knows there are still more teens in Omaha dealing with similar struggles. They want to help as many as they can.

"[Youth] who live on the streets or in the bridge or surf--couch surf and they live from place to place," YES Executive Director Mary Fraser-Meints said. "Which isn't good for their future, their education and their ability to get a job."

A few dozen volunteers stood out in the cold during rush hour at some of the metro area's busiest intersections holding up signs for cars to honk if they support youth homeless awareness.

Many of them were once residents at YES shelters.

Troy Murphy said he volunteered to give back to the organization for helping him escape what his life could have been.

"Probably be in jail or homeless. One of those two because this program really helped me out a lot," Murphy said.

Susan Myers was part of the YES maternity home and mentoring program. She wanted to send a message to homeless teens that YES is a great jump-start to their recoveries.

"Get a warm meal, they can also get into house, look for jobs and get assistance if they need to," Myers said.

The message Brad had: "Reach out and talk to somebody. They will always help you and if you want to just go down to the office at YES and just talk to somebody they can help you make that decision."

A person just may listen--in fact--a few dozen of them.

YES said they have served more than 800 youth in 2011-2012. their programs include an emergency shelter, transitional living program, street outreach and maternity home and mentoring program.

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