Resource center attempts to get homeless kids off the street

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Posted: Monday, November 16, 2015 --- 8:30 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. -- Decreasing the homeless rate of children in Madison is something a local organization wants to do, but they say it's not going to be easy.

Child homelessness is something you may not think about. In fact, some call it an invisible issue.

"You don't see them in front of the city, county building, you don't see them on state street," Cedric Johnson, Briarpatch Development Director, says.

However, that doesn't mean the problem is not there. Briarpatch Youth Services Center estimates that more than 50 children do not have a roof over their head at night.

Transitional Living Program Coordinator Tyler Schueffner says the majority of at-risk teens are not even seeking out services.

"People always want hard facts, like, 'This is who these kids are,' and we don't know quite honestly, because the kids who really need us or really are at most risk, stay really well hidden," Schueffner says.

He adds that many realize the stigma behind homelessness. It's not something they want to admit to people.

Briarpatch is trying to change that in what they call a judge-free zone.

"Even if they're fleeing from a court placement, we'll say, 'Hey, you know, you need to acknowledge that, but we want to make sure you're safe,'" Schueffner says.

They have two new shelters. One for children under 18, the other aimed at those ages 18 - 24. For the older residents, they say it's not just a holding place; they are teaching them life skills.

"All the things that I think a lot of people take for granted," Schueffner says. "We want to make sure that they at least get the information. They might not retain it, but it's a starting point for them to start to engage and learn about what it actually means to be an adult."

Hoping to be a positive resource and get them off the street for good.

Community members can get involved in that effort to get youth off the street. Briarpatch accepts monetary donations, as well as food, clothing and toiletries. Volunteer opportunities are also available.

For more information, visit www.youthsos.org.