Three hundred children a month. Briarpatch Youth Services brings awareness to the issue to the forefront of Madison with 300 green flags planted in the ground to represent how many new children are affected by homelessness each month in Dane County.
November is Homeless Awareness Month and Runaway Prevention Month, and Briarpatch Youth Services wants people to be aware of how prevalent the issue is. The non-profit organization offers programs and resources for the homeless, at-risk youth and runaways. Right now, 300 green flags have been planted from Briarpatch’s office, 2720 Rimrock Rd, all the way to the Beltline with facts on signs lining the path to help push the point.
“Each flag represents a youth that goes to bed homeless or during some sort of housing insecurity, whether it be sleeping in a car, couch surfing, you know, multiple families sharing a motel room for a couple of days,” said Briarpatch Youth Services development and communications director Ian Carter.
Throughout November, Carter and others from Briarpatch wear green every day to keep the conversation going all month long. It’s more typical on a country-wide scale to see people just wear green on the national day of awareness, November 16, but Briarpatch wants people to think as much about the problem as much as possible, Carter said.
“There are a number of efforts that are going on, specifically during the month of November, to bring awareness and to shed light on what I consider to be an epidemic,” Carter said.
The average age of the homeless is the part that keeps surprising people. Carter said the average age of those affected by homelessness is 9 and a half, and the effects trickle into more than unstable homelife.
“When you look at high school kids whose parents are homeless, they have the burden of not only trying to maintain education, but basically being able to take a shower, a bite to eat three times a day,” said program coordinator Willie Watkins.
The issues compound with each other as students’ health can take a negative turn and conflicts with their parents ensue from mounting disciplinary problems.
The problems with the child trickle into problems at home. Frustrations from parents, who are already dealing with housing insecurity alongside their children, over their student’s behavior continues the cycle over and over again.
“If you think about the average student, let’s say we have a student who continues to find themselves in the office having to face some type of disciplinary issues, this person is in the office because they are being a distraction in the class having [a] negative impact,” Carter said.
Briarpatch is working to at least help make people more aware of the issue and direct those affected by homelessness, or want to help, with resources. The non-profit has a list of goods that it is always looking for up on its website. Briarpatch serves 2,000 non-duplicated youth per year with its programs and resources.
“A lot of times, we take for granted how uplifting a nice shirt can be sometimes, or a nice clean pair of shoes,” Carter said.