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Challenges rise for unhoused youth as temperatures drop

Winter Weather Photo
Wikimedia Commons

As colder seasons come through West Michigan, AYA Youth Collective, an organization addressing youth homelessness, is asking for sweaters, coats, mittens and more.

As the air starts to bite and the trees shed their leaves, many Michiganders know the cold front that’s creeping in. It's an added barrier to the complex housing challenge many youth in West Michigan face.

“It’s West Michigan at its finest coming up and so that means that the resources and the need we have continue to go up," Andy Allen, Director of Advancement at AYA Youth Collective said.

AYA Youth Collective, a local organization creating circles of support for youth facing homelessness, sees about 50 youth every day, leading to around 400 unique visitors in its doors per year. In 2020, the group saw around 6,200 visits total. With temperatures beginning to dip, Allen’s team is reminding the community about just how far their donations go.

“We know that at least 90 young people are sleeping outside every night in Grand Rapids. That doesn’t count youth sleeping on their couches or youth sleeping in their cars. They’re literally sleeping outside," he said, "Top priority needs aside from monetary are physical donations like mittens, hat, coats, backpacks, sweatshirts, underwear, hygiene products of all kind.”

AYA stands for As You Are, which is where the group tries to meet each individual coming through its doors. The organization is the result of a merge between 3:11 Housing and HQ Drop in Center that officially formed in July of 2020. Allen said it's mission is to "eradicate youth homelessness" in the city of Grand Rapids.

“We’re working with 14-24 year old's all the time, and they’re just like normal 14-24 year old's. They are looking for a hot meal or people to hang out with and form relationships with," he explained, "...Every youth has a unique story and unique past, so what we try to do is we try to ask really good questions and listen really well and try to connect them with the right resources to get them where they want to be."

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