Working with homeless youth can be challenging. There are many barriers to overcome, the least of which is getting them to trust you enough to accept your help. This year, Youth Services has made helping homeless youth a priority: we added a Homeless Youth Walk-In Program where youth can come at any time for food, laundry and shower facilities or overnight shelter. But how do we get the youth here?
Our approach: Guitar classes.
In partnership with Volunteers of America, Utah, I am teaching weekly classes at the Homeless Youth Resource Center. I held my first class earlier this month. I first introduced myself and Youth Services and the resources we have available for homeless youth.
They also took turns with brief introductions and naming a creative talent they possess. Some examples were: playing guitar, singing, photography, and drawing. We discussed how music and the arts are powerful tools for healing and bringing people together. We also talked about important historical figures that have helped change the world for the better such as John Lennon, Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi.
Several of the youth said that just talking about these topics inspired them to write and express their creativity. I encouraged them to carry around notebooks or voice recorders so when they have inspiring thoughts they can get them down on paper or record them.
The entire class wasn’t focused solely on music. We also discussed current issues such as suicide and substance abuse and how the youth can use music and the arts to bring people together and possibly stop these problematic issues from recurring. The group ended with youth concluding that self-expression through music and the arts was much more effective than masking problems through drugs and violence. It was great to discuss these topics so that if they youth do want to receive services such as counseling or substance abuse treatment, they now know me and I can direct them to Youth Services for help.
It was an extremely positive experience and I am excited to see the progress from our weekly classes. I will post updates on how the class is helping with our homeless youth outreach.
How have you seen that music helps you with stress? What are other ways that we can reach out to troubled youth or youth on the streets?