Nearly 500 youth in Kansas City, KS are experiencing homelessness and more than 30,000 people in Wyandotte County are food insecure.
Those statistics inspired a group of Wyandotte High School students to take charge and bring awareness to the growing problem.
Led by their business teacher, Sheyvette Dinkens, students at Wyandotte High School organized the Youth Homeless Summit in partnership with Cross-Lines Community Outreach, Kansas Mentors, Care Beyond the Boulevard and Kansas Volunteer Commission.
The goal of the summit, intended for students, is to bring more understanding, empathy and awareness to homelessness in Wyandotte County, where the issue has grown significantly since the pandemic.
“We’re excited to see young people involved in issues and solutions and seeing high school students leading these efforts,” said Susila Jones, executive director of Cross-Lines, a local organization that provides hunger relief and housing to the community. Cross-Lines is funding the project.
Participating students in the Youth Homeless Summit will arrive at the Evangelistic Center International Ministries on May 6 where they will immediately take part in a social experiment.
Upon arrival, students will be assigned a card that determines their experience for the rest of the day, into the next morning. The card determines factors like what kind of dinner they’ll eat, how much and where they’ll sleep, whether it’s outside, in a tent or inside. They’ll actually participate, which the students say will help put themselves in a homeless person’s shoes.
Students will also have the opportunity to hear from speakers like social workers and from organizations working to bring resources to the homeless. Kansas City, MO’s Heart Cart program leaders will also be in attendance to talk about the importance of having a safe place for the houseless to keep their belongings.
“You see people on the street, but we never really know the steps it took and how they got there,” said Zaria Mitchem, a Wyandotte High School student who helped organize the summit. “We hope this will give people more insight on homelessness.”
Another student leading the summit, Judith Diaz, said she’s always wanted to help her community and this was the perfect way to do that.
“We hope that the city and others will see local youth leading this project and be inspired to do something about homelessness in Wyandotte County,” Diaz said.
One week after the project, students will showcase their results in a capstone presentation at the school.