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Quick and Dirty

Taking to the Streets

By Christina Royster-Hemby | Posted 4/26/2006

Two weeks ago Stand Up For Kids, a national nonprofit organization that helps kids who live on the streets, began giving out hygiene kits and food in Baltimore City. And not a moment too soon, says Vivek Thaker, executive director of the group’s Baltimore chapter. He says that in 2004 there were 2,289 homeless youth in the city, according to an article he read in The Sun. And he believes those numbers could be growing.

The organization’s 15 local volunteers have been spending a few hours each week doing outreach work with kids in the Patterson Park area of the city. Though their effort is offering some relief to those who desperately need it, Thaker says the need is just as great in other areas of the city that Stand Up For Kids is not yet serving. He says his organization is working with other local groups, such as Youth Opportunity! and the Homeless Person’s Representation Project, to expand its programs so it can reach even more kids in need.

“Our goal is to increase our partnership with nonprofit organizations already serving homeless and at-risk youth and to reach out to more homeless youth in Baltimore,” he says, noting that in addition to offering hygiene items and food, volunteers also like to offer young people opportunities to improve their lives. That may mean giving them information about job-training programs, emergency shelters, subsidized housing, or youth shelters.

“Sometimes a youth looking to improve their situation only needs an introduction to the right resources,” Thaker says. “If they’re committed to using that help, that can go a long way.”

Though Thaker, a Maryland native, has never been homeless himself, he says the issue of homelessness is very personal to him. His parents hail from India, where there is a very large homeless population, so addressing it in his own backyard is important to him.

“Having seen some of the unfortunate realities of being a homeless youth, like lack of food, no consistent shelter, and no proper parenting or self-parenting, I wanted to make an impact,” Thaker says. “Many homeless teens don’t even know what resources are available to them. Our goal is to help homeless youth in Baltimore achieve their personal goals.”

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