X-Out Homelessness

By: Reshini Premaratne

Poverty , Athlete

Homelessness has always been prevalent in the United States, yet often gets ignored. Even though it exists right outside our own homes and in our neighborhoods, the conversation never seems to make it into our classrooms or at the dinner table.

In the United States, there are three main types of homelessness: chronic, transitional, and episodic. Chronic homelessness accounts for the people who are often in long-term housing rather than just an emergency arrangement. Transitionally homeless individuals generally stay in a shelter system for a short period; this population tends to embody the younger, more recent members of the precariously housed population. Over time, transitionally homeless people account for the majority of people experiencing homelessness because of their high rate of turnover. Lastly, episodic homelessness describes those who frequently come in and out of being homeless.

According to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, there are 1,750,000 homeless individuals in the United States. The most astounding aspect of this population is that 40% of the individuals are veterans and 28% do not get enough to eat daily. It is also estimated that 31,000,000 people are living below the poverty line and 9,300,000 recipients of food stamps are actually children. While the biggest demographic of homeless population is men at 44%, 36% of the homeless population is composed of families with children. Perhaps the most heartbreaking of these statistics is that 20% of the people in soup kitchen lines are children. Homelessness has only declined 0.4% in the past 4 years, which means this is an issue that will not go away unless we educate the next generation of leaders in our nation.

X-Out Homelessness aims to not only eradicate the issue of homelessness, but empower and educate youth at the same time.

X-Out Homelessness is a youth-led service campaign that is dedicated to raising awareness about homelessness and securing much needed funding for resources. Through events, contests, X-Out Homelessness week, leadership conferences, coding workshops, and other fundraising initiatives, we help both students and homeless individuals move from a downward spiral of dependency to a cycle of hope and empowerment.

As a youth-led initiative, we recognize the extraordinary power of our peers. Not only do we believe in raising awareness among students, but we also believe in empowering them to becoming leaders who are able to incite innovative change thought their own passion, talents, experience and resources.

X-Out Homelessness Coding Program

Starting on March 28th, 2015 - X-Out Homelessness, in partnership with The Daily Planet and its' Safe Haven residential program, will be launching a pilot program in which high school students and homeless individuals are brought together to learn the fundamentals of coding. The program will run every Saturday from the end of March to the end of May. If you live in the Richmond, VA area and are interested in participating in the program, please answer this brief survey http://bit.ly/1NtDjgr .

One of our main annual events is X-Out Homelessness Week, which is held during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week in November. Every participating school has a student ambassador who coordinates and plans the event for that particularly school. This allows students to take on leadership roles in their community and create the events that will be most influential and memorable. Some of these ambassador run events include; needs drives, bake sales, assemblies, and contests. The only requirement of the participating schools during this week is that they participate in X-Out Day, which has become the icon of X-Out Homelessness. On this day, student ambassadors hand out duct tape X’s for the students to wear on their shirts to symbolize their commitment to X-ing Out the issue of homelessness. Students also receive information cards with facts and statistics about homelessness on both local and national level. Then, a group picture is taken to make a statement in their community that Generation Y is standing up to the issue of homelessness for all the men, women, and children who endure the hardships of living on the streets.

To follow through with our mission of educating and empowering youth, we also host an annual leadership conference, called the Y-Leadership Conference, that teaches students about the issue of homelessness by bringing in past clients of The Daily Planet, an organization that provides healthcare services to those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, holding a paneled discussion with youth who have been active in this area of service, and conducting interactive and educational activities. This conference not only helps to create a network of service-minded students in the area, but it also provides youth with the information on the issue, as well as an avenue through which they can get involved.

In addition to raising awareness among youth, X-Out Homelessness also works diligently to create a tangible impact on the community by raising funds and collecting goods to donate to the homeless population. One noteworthy fundraiser that was successful in raising over $3,000 was a charity figure skating show, planned and executed by founder Reshini Premaratne, who is a figure skater herself.

The general public can help support this project the following ways:

PRIORITY #1: Sponsor a "Needs" Drive

We are always collecting goods to donate to the homeless and we could use your help!


PRIORITY #2: Support Our Annual Campaign

From October 1st through November 30th yearly we raise money!


PRIORITY #3: Start an X-Out Club at Your School

Be a part of the global X-Out Homelessness community and start a club at your school.


PRIORITY #4: Participate in our Coding Program

We bring high school students together with homeless individuals to teach the fundamentals of coding!


Team Members

  • Reshini Premaratne

    Founder and President

    Reshini founded X-Out Homelessness in 2010 at the age of ten. Reshini first became passionate about the issue of homelessness when she started volunteering at The Daily Planet during that same time period and learned about the prevalence of this issue in her own community. But, when she returned to school, she realized that many of her peers were not aware of this issue in their community so she created the X-Out campaign in order to increase awareness and create solutions. Reshini was chosen to be a 2014 Global Teen Leader for the We Are Family Foundation's Three Dot Dash initiative and hopes to use this honor to further her X-Out project and expand it to many more cities and states across the country.

  • Susan Sekerke

    Mentor

    A native of Richmond and graduate of VCU, she’s seen firsthand the issues facing those who are homeless and those who don’t have access to healthcare in our community. After earning her B.S. in Public Relations she spent five years in advertising, PR and marketing. She uses her marketing and PR skills to bring more creative thinking to the homeless services system and how we talk about the issue. She has worked in homeless services for 13 years, both at The Daily Planet and Freedom House. She earned her master’s in Public Administration in 2010 and graduated from Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program in the spring of 2013. Through a joint Fellowship with ENLP and ASPiRE, a service-learning program at VCU she taught a seminar class on the issue of homelessness and its causes. Through innovative volunteer programs like Breaking Bread and X-Out Homelessness, a youth-led awareness campaign, she strives to put a human face on the issue of homelessness and help others realize we are all people and we all need help at some point. She is currently planning for the official launch of a social enterprise called Illuminating Innovations this fall.

Impact

Why Youth Day Is Vital for All Generations

Aug. 12, 2015

International youth day celebrates the fact that young people understand the cultural shifts and needs of the world with a perspective the aging population simply can not have.  As teems, we have witnessed politcal revolutions, the legalization of same-sex marriage (in the USA), the acceptance and celenbration of transgender political figures and multiple international economic and civic strife. These are all elements which have laid the groundwork for new movements of social justice which engage youth worldwide.

It is an honor to be included in a Huffington Post piece which describes the X-Out Homelessness project

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melissa-jun-rowley/why-youth-day-is-vital-fo_b_7980070.html

15,000 students + $10,000 raised + 350lbs donated

Feb. 27, 2015

Being a Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Awards Finalist, I was asked to describe how “X-Out Homelessness” reached 15,000 students and raised almost $10,000, while also donating 350 pounds of goods to the homeless.

Making The News

SKATER IN ACTION: Reshini Premaratne Skates in action on and off the ice and leads campaign to fight homelessness, Richmond Times, November 17, 2013

It’s 6:30 a.m. and Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School sophomore Reshini Premaratne is lacing up her ice skates exactly as she was taught as a 4-year-old. About 10 other skaters, coaches in tow, join her before school to practice routines and hone their skills. Read MORE.

Reshini Premaratne's X-Out Homelessness, Generation On, May 18, 2013

Reshini Premaratne has never been a girl to give up. Even when organization after organization told her that she was too young to volunteer at the age of 10, she refused to just sit back and not take part in the development of her society. So, she continued to call and email and drop-by every organization she could until she finally stumbled upon The Daily Planet, a local homeless organization in Richmond City. At first, she started volunteering for the homeless by making lunches every month for a homeless soccer team. Her neighbor even called once during the summer, asking what she was doing on that blistering day and she politely responded that she was making sandwiches for a homeless soccer team that she helps support. Read MORE

8 Kids Who Are Changing the World: Start small, but dream big! By doing just that, these kids are making a real difference, Mom.me

At 12, Richmond, Va. native Reshini Premaratne volunteered at a local food bank—but she didn’t feel like she was doing enough. And she knew that other kids her age were unaware about just how much homelessness affects their communities. So in 2010, she spearheaded the X-out Homelessness campaign at her school, encouraging her fellow students to wear duct-taped X’s on their shirts to spread awareness among their peers. In the past three years, the campaign—held in November during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week—has spread to more than 20 local schools (and more than 10,000 students) and prompted bake sales and food drives.

$50,000 Peace First Fellowship for youth - meet one of the 50 finalists, Children's Mental Health Network, September 11, 2013

We were blown away when we learned about the Peace First organization, which is a partnership of community and business groups that honor youth who have done amazing things in their communities worldwide. Peace First is in the final stages of a contest for youth that is designed to share the daring work of young people far and wide, invest in their leadership, and inspire others to make peacemaking a part of their daily lives. Most importantly they want to tell the stories of their nominees – incredible stories of young people leading change. Read MORE

The Leaders of Today by Reshini, Miss Heard Magazine

“Youth are the leaders of tomorrow,” the coined phrase relays. In our society, we are often told that children are meant to be seen and not heard. While there has recently been a social shift in the perception of youth, there are still many obstacles facing those who hope to make a change in their communities and happen to also be younger than 20 years old. Speaking from personal experience, organizations often turn away younger volunteers because they are “too young to make a real difference” or “unable to inflict real change.” Read MORE

Partnerships

2014 Three Dot Dash Global Teen Leader - RESHINI PREMARATNE: X-Out Homelessness

Reshini was used to seeing the sad affects of homelessness in her parents' home country of Sri Lanka when she would visit, but she didn't realize how severe the problem was right in her backyard in Richmond, Virginia. Upon discovering the lack of conversation about the issue, 8-year-old Reshini decided to start the conversation. She founded "X-Out Homelessness" in 2010 to raise funds and create awareness for the homeless. Read MORE

Campaigns

Charity Skating Show, May 3rd, 2014

Organizer: Reshini Premaratne

Beneficiary: X-Out Homelessness and The Daily Planet

Money Raised: $3,000

In collaboration with SkateNation Plus and The Daily Planet, X-Out Homelessness hosted a charity skating show to raise awareness about and funds for the homeless in the Greater Richmond area. X-Out Homelessness is an entirely youth-led service campaign that is dedicated to raising awareness about and funds for the homeless. This campaign has grown to include a second tier of fundraising to make an even greater and more tangible impact. In the past 4 years, X-Out Homelessness has spread to over 20 schools in the Greater Richmond area, reached more than 10,000 students, raised approximately $5,150, and donated about 275 pounds of goods to the homeless. Read MORE

Recognition

X-Out Homelessness Presented at Kids are Heroes Day, October 2013

On September 14, 2013, Reshini Premaratne traveled to Frederick, Maryland to present X-Out Homelessness at the Francis Scott Key Mall. As a recognized ‘Kids are Heroes’, Reshini was able to display X-Out Homelessness to local shoppers, as well as the myriad of other heroes who also attended. In fact, Reshini even got the chance to speak to the crowd about her campaign and her experiences with X-Out Homelessness. Thank you so much to Kids are Heroes and all of the staff, volunteers, and other heroes for making the day not only an experience, but a joy! Take a look at a few pictures from the event! Read MORE


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