TOMS RIVER – The year 2020 has been rough for a lot of us. This article doesn’t need to go into detail dredging up some of the difficult challenges we all have faced. After all, you see it all over the TV and social media.
But here’s something you don’t see: The plight of kids who have no place to call home. You might not see them, but they are around, on the fringes of society.
There is one place for them, and that’s Ocean’s Harbor House. The organization has two houses for kids who need help. One is for kids ages 10-19 if they need up to 30 days just to get out of their environment for a time. The other is for youth 16-21. This is a longer-term placement where the goal is to learn self-sufficiency and life skills while they settle into a job or school.
“Usually, we’re the first person they talk to at a pivotal point in their life,” said Laura Wagner, Director of Development and Marketing for Harbor House.
They also have counseling to keep a home environment from getting to the point where they need to get out.
“A lot of people don’t realize we have services outside the home,” she said.
Often, homeless youth aren’t seen or heard, she said. They will usually couch surf at their friends’ homes or sleep in cars. You don’t usually see them on the street.
COVID-19 has made it even more difficult for the kids. Stay-at-home orders means they have fewer chances to get a break from a bad home life.
Since November is National Runaway and Homeless Youth Month, Harbor House put on a fundraiser to not only help support the organization but to spread the word about what they do.
The funds will go toward taking care of the two houses, which require 24/7 supervision and the supplies and services for a few dozen kids who are able to be there.
More than 50 people came out for the organization’s first Stepping Forward walk. The weather cooperated. It was brisk in the morning, but as the sun rose and the blood got pumping, it warmed up. They walked from Huddy Park to one of their houses and back.
Clementine Franco was 16 when she first came to Harbor House.
“I was happy to be with peers who were in a similar situation as me,” she said.
They helped her get her life back on track. Now, she’s a massage therapist who helps other people manage their pain. She took part in the walk with her young kids.
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