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The City Journals

Brief relief for homeless youth

Oct 27, 2016 04:34PM ● By Bradyn Orton

By Bradyn Orton | [email protected]


It can be very easy to take for granted the simple things in life, especially underwear. For those who go without such bare necessities, the luxury is apparent.

The Volunteers of America (VOA) Utah branch is asking for new and unused underwear for homeless youth. The VOA is hosting an underwear drive at the VOA Youth Resource Center at 888 South 400 West, downtown Salt Lake City, from Sept. 5 through Nov.5.  

The VOA works closely with the Friend to Friend organization. The independent organization, based out of a network of Olympus High volunteers, consists of youth in the area reaching out to help other youth in the community.

For more convenient locations, large donation bins are at the Holladay town where donations will be accepted. Friend to Friend retrieves the donations on a regular basis and delivers them to the VOA.

“When we were approached by Friend to Friend they asked what our biggest need is, and what we really need is someone to do an underwear drive,” said Deann Zebelean, director of communications for the VOA Youth Resource Center.

Friend to Friend will be out in the community seeking contributions for the underwear drive, with the largest drop on Saturday, Nov. 5.

“Friend to Friend works to introduce youth to charity work and to help meet the needs of the community. So it is a great opportunity for youth to learn more about the needs of the community and do a service project by going out and asking for contributions,” Zebelean said.

Though underwear may not cure homelessness, it does offer a brief relief for those inflicted, and assists in removing one more concern from the minds of those looking to simply endure nights in the plunging temperatures.

Homeless and at-risk youth are in danger as the weather gets colder. Warm clothing and additional layers are some of the most crucial contributions for youth living without.  

Though the VOA is focusing on underwear for their drive, no donation will be turned away.  Any clothing that may be lying around the house can become a revitalized godsend for a young person living on the streets.

Though the VOA cannot take used underwear, there are many other ways to help the homeless or the VOA.

“Our center runs on community service. If someone doesn’t have the financial needs to donate something like that, we need help in our program. Come in and sort community donations, cook meals in our kitchen, or help work our front desk,” Zebelean said.

Without the concern of fighting the cold or having enough to wear, homeless youth would be more able to focus on finding a job or other resources that could possibly assist them.

The VOA has provided over 75,569 meals for those suffering from homelessness, addiction, or mental illness. 

According to the State of Utah Comprehensive Report on homelessness, in January 2015, 3,025 were identified as being homeless. It can be difficult to get an accurate representation of the numbers of homeless Utahns as so many experience such fluid residency considerations. 

This can prove to be an even greater challenge for homeless youth as there are so many factors that contribute to their situation.  

For some youth, their parent or guardian will claim they are in their protection even though they have relinquished any care and no longer provide for them. 

Many others won’t reveal they are homeless, possibly because they themselves do not think they are or they fear being returned to an abusive or neglectful home if caught by authorities. Some keep silent because they are ashamed of the circumstances.