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“Sometimes all it takes is meeting one or two people who really care…”

Posted Nov 11 2010 10:43am


Homelessness greatly increases people’s risk of contracting HIV, especially among youth, who now account for HALF of all new HIV infections each year. To meet the needs of young people most at risk, AIDS Action operates the Youth on Fire Drop-in Center for homeless and street involved youth.

Since 2000, Youth on Fire has worked with over 2,500 youth through its Harvard Square location. Youth on Fire engages its members first and foremost by providing life’s necessities — hot meals, showers, laundry. As members grow comfortable, they may also access on-site medical treatment (including HIV and STD screening), mental health counseling, housing search support, and more.

During November, which is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, AIDS Action is recognizing Youth on Fire’s 10 years of service to youth living in Greater Boston. Read on for more information about the challenges homeless youth face, events taking place this month you can participate in, and other ways to support our work.

The Importance of Raising Awareness

“Sometimes all it takes is meeting one or two people who really care to make you start turning your life around” -– Youth Member, 21

Every night in Greater Boston, hundreds of young adults face the question, “Where will I stay tonight?” Some manage to stay with extended family or friends. Some go to shelters. Some stay in cars or abandoned buildings. Some try to blend in at local colleges and all-night coffee shops. Some simply stay outside.

Winter is an especially hard season for young adults with nowhere else to go. The weight of the systems and people that have disappointed them can feel especially heavy on homeless youth during this season. The lack of family during the holidays and the impact of the cold weather often leave homeless youth to wonder if the day-to-day struggle is worth it.

For ten years, YOF has provided a safe space for these young adults to meet their basic needs, build supportive relationships with caring adults, address their medical and mental health needs, and engage in a change process at their own pace. In the last two years, the number of clients served has doubled, yet funding has decreased. We are constantly asked to do more with less.

“National Homeless Youth Awareness Month provides an opportunity for homeless youth to be seen, counted and heard for who they are: resilient survivors each with their own story to tell and future to create.” Ayala Livny, Youth on Fire’s Program Manager for the last six years.

“We are not bad people, and a lot of us are just victims of circumstance. We do what we need to do to get through the day. All of us are someone’s daughter or son – the hard exterior is what we need to survive – but really, we’re still youth and deserve to be paid attention to” – Youth Member, 19

National Homeless Youth Awareness Month Events

As part of National Homeless Youth Awareness Month and our 10-year celebration, AIDS Action is proud to co-sponsor In Their Own Words: A Forum on Youth Homelessness with the Massachusetts Housing & Shelter Alliance. The event will feature

  • Personal stories from homeless young people working with our Youth on Fire Drop-in Center
  • Commentary from experts in the field of homelessness
  • Information on how you can be part of the efforts to end homelessness

Date: Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 pm
Location: Youth on Fire, 1555 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138

Refreshments will be provided. The event is free, and all are welcome — spread the word! For more information or to RSVP contact: Caitlin Golden at 617-367-6447, ext. 28.

Other events Youth on Fire and AAC staff will be at during Homelessness Awareness month:

November 13th: Join the impact MA Rally for Queer Homeless Youth on Boston Common  
November 23rd @ 1pm, Bridge Over Troubled Waters will be hosting a Homeless Vigil at the fountain in the Boston Common

Ways to Support Our Work

Youth on Fire is special tenth anniversary fundraising drive to support its services. Here’s a short list of the ways your financial support makes Youth on Fire’s work with at risk youth possible:

  • $10 buys body wash and laundry detergent for 1 week
  • $20 buys cold medicine and vitamins for 2 weeks
  • $50 buys 28 transportation passes to help members get to medical appointments
  • $100 buys gloves and hats for 1 month
  • $250 buys socks and underwear for two months
  • $500 buys blankets and sleeping bags for 17 youth
  • $1000 buys meals and snacks for two months
  • $3,000 buys one month’s rent for the YOF Drop-in Center

For more information on supporting Youth on Fire, please contact AIDS Action Committee’s VP of Development, Mark Walsh, at , or mail a check payable to AIDS Action Committee (Memo: Youth on Fire), 75 Amory Street, Boston, MA 02119. Thank you so much for your support!

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