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Rally in downtown Grand Rapids shines light on youth homelessness

AYA Youth Collective was joined by community organizations at Rosa Parks Circle.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A.Y.A Youth Collective and other community organizations gathered at Rosa Parks Circle to highlight the issue of youth homelessness Friday. 

"We Exist" is an initiative Kent County Youth Action Board launched earlier this spring.

The project was prompted by the more than 200 young people between the ages of 10 and 24 who have either slept outside or in emergency shelters in the Grand Rapids area so far in 2022. 

"I think what's really hard, especially in our community, is that a lot of people have preconceived notions as to what homelessness looks like," said Li Kaplan, Housing Specialist at A.Y.A Youth Collective. "A lot of the time, that doesn't include youth in their minds."

The goal of the event was to bring local youth who are experiencing Category 1 homelessness, which Michigan.gov defines as "an individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence", together and get them in touch with housing and career resources.

Those who attended were encouraged to film what youth homelessness is to them. These videos will be compiled with other footage captured over the next few months and made into a documentary.

A.Y.A. Youth Collective is hoping to debut the documentary this winter.

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