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Youth homelessness focus of MLK Supper
One night before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Mayor Kim Bracey urged concerned citizens to help the homeless youth in order to help fulfill King's dream.
Yorkers of all ages showed up for Bracey's fourth annual MLK America's Sunday Supper at the Lincoln Charter School Sunday evening. Each year the event highlights a different issue in the area, with this year's issue being youth homelessness.
Attendees were given a free meal donated by Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen and were given a showing of the Academy-Award winning short documentary "Inocente," a film detailing the life of a homeless girl, with a discussion about the film and the issues it brought up.
The event, organized by Bracey, Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness (ECYEH) and Lincoln Charter School, was free and open to the public.
Those who attended were encouraged to bring donations of items such as toiletries, socks, large backpacks, hats and gloves for homeless unaccompanied youth.
The night: The event started at 4 p.m. in the gymnasium, with Principal and CEO of Lincoln Charter School Leonard Hart and Bracey speaking to the audience before food was served. Bracey spoke about the issue of homelessness and how it connects to Martin Luther King Jr.'s message.
"I believe in order to fulfill his dream, we probably have to get to work," she said.
She spoke about how homeless young people need help.
"We can no longer afford to sit in silence," she said.
After her speech, she said the supper was a good way to spread the message and get the community involved.
"No young person should have to be without shelter or without food," she said.
Among the attendees were a few other York officials, such as York City Councilman Michael Helfrich, Councilwoman Sandie Walker, County Commissioner Susan Byrnes and state Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City.
Schreiber said the issue of youth homelessness is more prevalent than people tend to think and that the event is a good way to push the dialogue.
"This is a dialogue that cannot be contained between these walls," he said.
Homelessness: Sonia Pitzi, Region 3 coordinator for ECYEH, attended the event to help spread the message of the issue. Her job is to ensure that all students who experience homelessness attend school.
She said, despite popular opinion to the contrary, the average age of homeless people is between 9 and 12, and recently the issue has gotten worse.
"It's a growing issue," she said.
Pitzi said the issue is more complex than people think, with people typically saying that if kids go around and follow the rules their parents set, their parents would not kick them out of the house.
"It isn't always that simple," she said.
She said a lot of the younger people who are homeless are homeless because of their home life, being kicked out of their home due to their sexual orientation or choices their parents don't agree with.
A discussion: The short 2012 documentary "Inocente" showed the life of 15-year-old artist, Inocente, who was homeless and dealing with her family life.
After the film, the audience was invited to speak about the film and the issues it brought up.
Among the speakers was Popeye's York District Manger Max Acharya, who encouraged individuals to help out.
"We need to do this as individuals," he said. "[Homelessness] should not exist, we're the top nation in the world."
Pitzi told people to not consider helping out a "handout."
"They need a hand up," she said. "We're not going to destroy our communities, we're going to build up our communities."
Councilwoman Walker said the problem was real and encouraged people to drop off any used clothes or shoes at schools, so long as they are in good condition.
"It's the little things that make a big difference to help our people in the city," she said.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org.