This summer, I did an interview talking about my experiences being homeless while also discussing family trauma. However, what didn’t make it into the article was how I managed to get out of that situation, and all the hard work that me and my team at Youth HEALers Stand Up have done to keep youth, adults, and the community informed about what’s going on in our communities relating to youth experiencing homelessness.
In the mist of my desire to help people like me I became a Youth Healer.
A Youth Healer is a person that advocates for youth ages 13-24 that are dealing with homelessness and/or housing insecurity. For us, housing insecurity can mean a number of things like staying in an overcrowded home, couch surfing, or even a situation like having mold in your walls and it’s unsafe to live there.
During my time of being a Youth Healer I have had the honor of working on a bunch of different activities leading up to our Heal the Future conference I and my teammates have been working hard on helping to plan and coordinate.
My favorite experience this summer has been working with children of Bartram’s Village, an affordable housing complex that is in the process of redevelopment in Southwest Philly. I have gotten to meet so many wonderful kids there that are interested in changing their community and making it a better place. There, me and other members of the Healers created and led a visioning session and an arts workshop to help them take power into their own hands. These workshops teach them how to have a voice and a say with what happens in their community while it is going through redevelopment. While we teach them about how to improve their community, we also help them get together an ideas they would like to present at the Heal the Future Youth Power conference that the Healers are hosting alongside other great youth-led organizations.
The Heal the Future conference will showcase the abilities of youth activists and advocates and the many great things they have accomplished in creating change for youth in Philadelphia. The youth will be teaching others about ways to make change as a young person, ways to deal with ageism and discrimination, and strategies different youth groups use for different issues, from youth homelessness, to educational justice, mass incarceration, and workforce development for young people.
I am very excited for this event and very proud of my team and myself. I have also been able to plan out and participate meetings to recruit and prep youth led social justice groups in the city, called different venues to secure space, plan conference activities, invite decision-makers and youth groups to attend, plan discussion questions and event materials, and everything else we need in order for the event to run as smoothly as possible. I have also been getting to know the other members of Youth HEALers Stand Up, like Joseph Hill-Coles who is a Healer’s member, as a community navigator at Youth Service Inc. where he helps youth like me find housing, employment and other resources.
Not only have I a learned about so many different organizations and groups in Philly that are willing to help Youth in the community become who they want to be. I have also come to realize that not only do politicians and government officials have power, but we as young people in Philly have power to change the ways of our communities and to better ourselves and those around us.
To learn more about the Healers please register for our Heal the Future Conference, whether you are a young person who wants to make a difference, or who has struggled with homelessness, dropping out, or incarceration, OR if you are an adult who wants to help.
To hear more about Cori's work, check out her interview as a local Changemaker with Cherri Gregg on FlashPoint at KYW.
Hello and welcome to the Youth HEALers blog. This is an introductory post to tell you who we are. Today’s blog post is brought to you by Miguel and the free wi-fi at this coffee shop.
Who are the Youth Healers?
Officially we are a group of young people ages 24 and under who have experiences with homelessness and housing insecurity who are fighting to end youth homelessness in the city of Philadelphia.
The acronym HEAL stands for Housing, Education, Action, and Leadership which shows a little bit of what our mission as an organization is.
While our overall goal is to end youth homelessness in Philly, as Healers we want to be able to take our experiences and stories and share them to give a voice to the underheard. Young people are so often left out of the conversation when it comes to homelessness and so people don’t know what it looks like and don’t know what to do to help.
That’s where the Healers come in!
We’re here to educate the community about the life of young people experiencing housing insecurity in Philly, whether that means living in a shelter, couch surfing, or some other form of unstable housing that youth experience. We are also here help promote the creation of solutions by youth themselves to help empower and support youth affected by homelessness. We want to make connections with communities, leaders, and decision makers to make real change about the issue that is youth homelessness.
This has barely begun to scratch the surface of who the Healers are and what we do.
I can keep saying that we are fighting to end youth homelessness and what the acronym stands for until I’m blue in the face, but it only gives a slight glimpse into the life of a Healer.
Myself, I started with the Youth Healers in February or March of this year. It was still the very beginning for the Healers being that the organization formed in January, in fact I was told that the name Youth HEALers Stand Up was thought of just during the last meeting before I was brought in. I found out about this group when I was participating in the Philly Youth Count survey one of the adult leaders in my group told me about it and eventually connected me to Rashni, the adult organizer for the Youth Healers. I was telling this person that as someone who has experience with living in shelters as a small, anxious, visibly queer 19-year-old, I want to do more for people who are still in that situation. I want to be the person I needed when I was younger. I know that my experiences were extremely stressful and traumatic at times and I want to make sure that one day there is a future where no young person has to go through what I went through. That’s why I joined the Healers.
We have a number of initiatives in the works, from visioning sessions, to support groups, to developing models for youth-led housing programs. This summer however we are mainly focused on our Heal the Future Youth Power Conference.
August 18th will be our first annual Heal the Future conference, a conference put together by young leaders for young leaders and allies. We will be joined by youth leaders from local youth-led groups including:
The Young Adult Leadership Committee @ The Office of Homeless Services
Youth Fostering Change
Youth Art and Self-Empowerment Project
Bartrams Village Dancers from Bartrams Village affordable housing community
Philadelphia Student Union
The Village of Arts and Humanities
We’ll be hosting workshops that focus on things like how to go about advocating for social justice while also dealing with housing insecurity, how to strategize for social change as a young person, and also teaching skills to adult leaders and decision makers on how to work with youth and make sure they’re listening to and respecting us.
With teaching these skills to adults and working with them so they can be better prepared to help us, we’re working on one of our current platforms which is to help professionals working in these youth serving institutions be able to more effectively treat and help youth with cultural differences, mental health issues, and/or LGBTQ issues.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR CONFERENCE, REGISTER, OR SEE HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT THE HEALERS MISSION