Most of us don't think twice about socks. Chances are, we have an overstuffed drawer of them along with a laundry basket of mismatched pairs.
There is a population among us for whom this basic clothing item is lacking: homeless youths.
The San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services has launched its first Sock Drive to help unaccompanied homeless youths at three organizations that serve this critical population: Stand-Up for Kids, The Storefront, and SDCOE's own Monarch School.
Kymm Wolfe and Susie Terry of Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services said the Sock Drive idea was the result of brainstorming for Runaway and Homeless Youth Month, which is recognized nationally in November. The San Diego County Board of Education at its October meeting passed a resolution recognizing Runaway and Homeless Youth Month, at the request of the Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services unit.
The Sock Drive will conclude Nov. 19 with a film screening of "The Homestretch," a documentary that follows three homeless youths. The Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services unit, led by Michelle Lustig, had organized the screening and wanted to add a donation component to the event.
"Socks are something that are always needed for homeless youth," said Terry, SDCOE homeless liaison. "When I volunteered at Stand-Up for Kids, that's what kids always wanted."
Collection bins for new socks are available at the main SDCOE campus in Linda Vista and the Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services office in Old Town. Donations from the public are welcome, Terry and Wolfe said, adding that schools, businesses, and community groups may set up sock collections, too.
"We do not turn things down over here," Terry said.
Added Wolfe: "The sad thing is, that as many socks as we collect, we will find people who (still) need them."
The greatest need is for socks in young men's and women's sizes, because the majority of unaccompanied youths are ages 14 and older.
The three organizations that will receive the socks were selected because they provide services to many of San Diego's unaccompanied youths, Terry and Wolfe said. "These three organizations have a direct impact on this population the most," Terry said, noting that Stand-Up for Kids is run solely by volunteers and on donations.
"The Homestretch" screening is open to the community, and the SDCOE team members hope to shed light on this population of homeless youths. Invitees include homeless liaisons from school districts around the county, and they are encouraged to bring their families.
"We really wanted to raise awareness about this population," said Wolfe, a Homeless Education program aide. "It's a fairly large population that's out on the street unsheltered that we're serving."
The homeless student population in San Diego County is 22,000. Most are students who are homeless with their families, but an estimated 800 to 1,000 are unaccompanied adolescents – on the streets and unsheltered without family. The documentary follows three homeless, unaccompanied teens from the Chicago area.
The No. 1 reason that youths run away and become homeless is to escape situations at home that are untenable, Terry said. Most often, they are fleeing some form of abuse. According to some estimates, up to 40 percent of homeless youths are LGBT and were kicked out of their home by parents.
Terry first saw a preview of "The Homestretch" at a symposium about a year ago, and she knew that she wanted to share the film with others. Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services secured a single-use screening license with grant funds "so that we could raise awareness of unaccompanied homeless youth."
Bring your donations of new socks to the collection bin in Room 404 on the main SDCOE campus, 6401 Linda Vista Road. For off-site SDCOE employees, send new socks via truck mail to the Foster Youth and Homeless Education Services office, 3878 Old Town Ave., Suite 200. The collection runs through Nov. 19. "The Homestretch" screening is a 6 p.m. Nov. 19 in the Joe Rindone Regional Technology Center. Doors open at 5:15 p.m. There is no cost to attend, but registration is requested at http://sdcoe.k12oms.org/1085-98969, and attendees are encouraged to bring a donation of a new pair of socks.