by Mike Toothman

Homelessness exists in all communities, whether urban or rural, and Wheeling is no exception. One organization is doing its part to help combat this issue.

The Wheeling SleepOut is a unique event designed to bring awareness to the plight of homelessness among the community and, in turn, change the lives of homeless young people in the area. Created and organized through Youth Services System (YSS) to raise funds for homeless youth and to increase people’s understanding of the lives of these youth, the Wheeling SleepOut challenges people to get together outdoors, to raise money, and to spend the night in a cardboard box. On Nov. 7, Lisa’s Field at the I-470 ball fields will host this year’s event, themed “Piecing It All Together.”

YSS works with young people facing trauma, dealing with family conflict, and finding themselves alone. Youth living on the edge need a partner to help them navigate to safety—YSS is that partner. Homeless youth find safety and guidance at YSS’ emergency shelters. Older youth receive critical help through YSS’ Transitional Living Program. These young people (ages 17 to 21) have spent time in institutions, and without the housing, support and skill development offered by transitional living services, these youth face homelessness, unemployment, illness, and possibly more severe outcomes. Fortunately, transitional living services help these young men and women build a foundation to be successful in their everyday life.

Being young and homeless happens because the pieces of support and aid all children need while growing up simply are not there. The reasons are many: domestic violence, family conflict, sexual identity and orientation, and substance abuse. Everyone can play a role to help in this year’s event, either through participation or donations. For more information or to donate, please visit http://wheelingsleepout2014.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1121068 .



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