Youth Homelessness In Omaha

A few days a week, a small group of men and women go out into the streets of Omaha with the sole purpose of looking to help. On their shoulders hang backpacks full of basic necessities like water, snacks, and hygiene items. In their hands are cards with information directing kids to Youth Emergency Services, better known as YES.

Shawn Miller with Youth Emergency Services calls out, "Street outreach, anyone in here?" as they search an abandoned home.

Two homeless teens come along with the group, Jeannie Harvey and Lydia Tobak. The girls have been on the streets for a few years. Harvey said she first became homeless at the age of 14.

"The first couple nights is like tough, because you don't know where to go, or what places to go or who to trust," said Harvey.

Harvey explains how to get in the abandoned home. She sleeps on a mattress on the second floor.

When asked how long she will stay, "Until the place gets hot, when the police start swerving around and stuff."

She and Tobak are nomads of the city, moving from place to place as needs be. In the middle of the winter, one of the top problems is the cold.

"You can have as many blankets as you want, but you can always get to that point where you are still cold, so as long as you have someone, your body heat surrounds both of you," said Harvey.

Tobak and Harvey stick to the buddy system, looking out for one another and staying warm together.

Helping these girls and other youth overcome being homeless is YES.

"They are paying for me to get my birth certificate, and my ID, and they are giving me rides to where I need to go," said Lydia Tobak.

They are homeless now, but each girl holds on to a hope of a better future tomorrow.

"One day I want to be back in college, have my own place and not worry about where I am going to go," said Harvey.

But that hope goes on hold on this night. After nightfall, the only goal is finding a meal and a place to stay.

YES coordinators say many of the homeless youth they encounter have been physically, emotionally or sexually abused. This type of abuse is normally why the youth choose to leave home.

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