Press Release

(Stillwater, Okla) — Payne County Youth Services is pleased to report that Oklahoma State University is supporting the awareness efforts to Shine a Light on runaway and Homeless Youth during this National Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month of November.   The iconic Edmon Law Library Tower and the Multimodal Facility at OSU, Stillwater, OK , will be lit in the awareness color of green in support of this important effort.

OSU President Burns Hargis stated, “We are pleased to partner with Payne County Youth Services in this way to show support.”

Many businesses, schools, churches, and municipal buildings across Payne County will also light up in green to raise awareness for Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY).  PCYS sponsored a Candlelight Vigil on Tuesday, November 19, 2019, at the Husband Street Pavilion at Boomer lake in Stillwater, OK, to remember the youth lost to runaway behavior and the perils of living on the street.

“Runaway and Homeless Youth often leave home to get away from abusive or unsafe conditions, or are kicked out by their families,” stated Janet Fultz, Executive Director at Payne County Youth Serves, in Stillwater, OK.

For these children and youth, the risk factors of living on the street, such as falling victim to exploitation, trafficking, exposure, lack of formal education, underemployment, food insecurity, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, health issues, lack of permanent connections and suicide result in staggering statistics.  Recent studies indicate 43% of runaway youth report physical abuse as a reason for leaving home, while 34% report sexual abuse before leaving home.  It is reported that 4.2 million children experience homelessness each year, and of those, 1.7 million children are unaccompanied minors (RHY).  Over 50% of youth living in shelters or on the street report that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and didn’t care.  Approximately 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT and cited the most frequent contributing factor to their homelessness being family rejection on the basis of sexual orientation.  Suicide is the leading cause of death among unaccompanied, homeless or runaway youth and is the second leading cause of death among non-homeless youth.

“There is HOPE, however,” continued Fultz.  “Communities can intervene and support organizations like PCYS who provide free, high quality services to runaway and homeless youth and their families, such as our Building a Competent Community for Suicide Prevention Program.  Communities can advocate for services and funding for prevention and treatment services at the local, state and federal levels.  Help us to Shine a Light an bring our kids home!”

To be a part of the awareness events or to support services to assist these vulnerable children and youth, contact PCYS at www.pcys.org, or call 405-377-3380.  For children or youth who wish to access the Safe Place program to get immediate help, may use the above contact information or text the keyword SAFE along with their location to 4HELP (44357) from anyplace in the USA.