New Inova initiative raises awareness of homeless youth
Inova Loudoun Hospital’s Chaplaincy Services and Community Affairs hosted a luncheon at the National Conference Center Oct. 6 to raise awareness about homeless and precariously housed children in Loudoun County.
Special guest speaker Stacey Bess, an educator and author, told the crowd her story of teaching homeless children in a small shed known as The School with No Name in Salt Lake City.
The event was also an opportunity to promote a new program from Inova Loudoun called Mobile Hope that was launched in September.
According to the website, Mobile Hope supports the needs of homeless or precariously housed youth in Loudoun County by using Inova Loudoun Hospital’s Mobile Health Unit team.
As one of the richest counties in the country, it is easy to assume Loudoun does not have homeless youth. Recently 658 young students were identified as homeless or precariously housed by Loudoun County Public Schools. Nearly 40 percent of these young people do not have a guardian or parent in their lives. They sleep in cars, in the woods, in abandoned warehouses or “couch surf” among their friends.
Mobile Hope is acting to establish partnerships with Loudoun County Public Schools, churches, police, government officials, health officials and community leaders to create ways for these kids to access essentials including food, clothes, hygiene products, school supplies and medical care.
In addition to Bess’s speech, Loudoun County’s not-for-profit organizations were present to answer questions and give more information on ways to help.
Bess began her speech by telling the story of her first job, fresh out of college and the learning experiences that came with it.
“My first day I had trouble understanding where these children were coming from because I had never experienced poverty before,” Bess said.
One of the more powerful messages, Bess tells her teachers and was told to her by one of her children, is “if you listen more, you will learn more.”
Bess closed her speech with a strong message.
“There are children everywhere who are struggling and need us and you are all in a position to change the lives of homeless children in your county,” Bess said. “Always remember, however, if there is a documented amount of 600 homeless children, then there are probably 900.”