Right now, there are more than 1 million homeless students in the United States, and children make up 27 percent of the country’s homeless population. Forsaken Generation is an organization working to help change those stats through advocacy and joining forces with other organizations hoping to bring an end to this issue. Here, we talk to Sean Wrench, the founder, about the prevalence of homelessness in the States, how it’s connected to modern slavery and what can be done about it.
What does the homeless youth population look like—who makes it up?
That’s a really tough question. There are so many different scenarios. These kids come from all walks of life. Some of the kids are out on the streets; some of them live in shelters. Some are still able to attend school; some aren’t able to or aren’t enrolled. But even the kids who sleep in the shelters will still spend a lot of time out on the street. Sex trafficking is a huge issue in the U.S. How does it affect the homeless youth here?
The United States has become the number-one destination in the entire world for child sex trafficking. In the past we’ve looked at this as a problem of “other countries.” Not anymore. And unless we wake up to this reality, these kids will continue to suffer.
Runaway homeless youth make up the majority of the child sex trafficking victims in the United States. In fact, I came across a recent study by the U.S. Justice Department that said one in three kids will be forced into prostitution within 48 hours of being on the street. By forced, I mean literally abducted off the street by a pimp and forced against their will to service multiple men every single day. Sometimes the pimp will actually chain them to a bed to keep them from running away. They threaten to kill them and their family if they won’t “perform” or if they try to escape. It’s not just a big-city problem either; it’s happening in many suburbs and rural areas and right in our backyards throughout the U.S. This is why services for homeless youth and shelters are so vitally important to the overall problem. Our organization has created a multi-tiered response to this; we put a big focus on prevention. We need help, though, we are completely volunteer-driven. If these homeless youth can get off the street into someplace safe, then they have a much better chance of not being lured into sex trafficking. Sadly, most shelters throughout the country are full.
What was it that prompted you to start Forsaken Generation?
Well it mainly stems from the fact that I am madly in love with Jesus. If you are really truly in love with Jesus, then it’s impossible to not love people. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God and to love others. The story of the Good Samaritan is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. The man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus basically responded by saying, “You already know the answer to this question, you tell me.” The man responded correctly by saying, “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind; and love others.” What I find most profound about the Scripture is what follows. The Scripture says that to justify himself, the man asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Now, come on, let’s be honest with ourselves right now: How often do we do that same exact thing. We run around saying we are searching for God’s purpose in our lives, when often it’s clearly laid out right in front of us. But often what God lays out right in front of us isn’t maybe the most attractive option. Jesus said, “Love one another”. Yet every single day of our lives we have that opportunity and essentially we are telling Jesus the same thing that man did: “But Jesus, that person isn’t my neighbor.’ ”
To actually “be” a neighbor when Jesus walked the earth meant something much different than what it does now. “Neighbor” did not mean the person who lived next door to you; “neighbor” was an action of love that you can choose to embrace or not embrace. To actually “be” a neighbor meant you would respond to those in need around you with unconditional love. If you’re reading this I want to challenge you. Will you choose to actually “be” that neighbor that Jesus was referring to? One who walks in unconditional love and lives a life of compassion towards all those who are around you?
To finish answering the question though, what prompted me was volunteering with my local Salvation Army. After a few weeks of volunteering I discovered they ran two youth homeless shelters that weren’t very far from where I lived. Until that point, I never knew any such thing existed. I asked to visit the shelter and I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. I walked in and they were full. I think there was about 60 kids there that day. I’ll never forget the look in their eyes. The best way I can describe it was they all had a look of complete hopelessness. Something stirred in my spirit that day. I knew I had to do something to help these kids.
What’s your plan for making a dent in this problem?
Well our mission is a little bit different than other organizations. This isn’t about us; it’s not about Forsaken Generation. We want as many people as possible to know how big of a problem youth homelessness and child sex trafficking is in America, and we’re doing that primarily through social media and speaking engagements. When I am invited to a church or school to speak, we often have many people whose hearts are really moved to help these kids. Our ultimate goal is to drive support to the thousands of groups all across the country that are working directly with these kids. Shelters are closing every single day because they don’t have the resources to keep doing what they are doing. There’s no excuse for that.
We also want to engage people in their own local communities. There are Forsaken Generation volunteer groups started in various parts of the country. If there isn’t one where you live, start one. We’ll help you and guide you through the process. It’s not rocket science; it’s just about helping and loving people. Our goal is to eventually have Forsaken Generation volunteer groups in every city in the country. It’s a huge goal, but we serve a huge God. There’s nothing He isn’t capable of. And I’m daily in awe that He chose us to be vessels to display His glory. It’s so humbling. We have four main focuses: awareness, advocacy, volunteerism and prevention. We have numerous volunteers opportunities available in each of those areas.
What advice would you give someone who wants to help?
Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of the problem, just start by doing one thing. I don’t remember who told me this, but someone said to me, “Don’t tell God how big the problem is, tell the problem how big your God is.” That’s right on, man. … I love that. God doesn’t change. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever. The same God that parted the Red Sea, that shut the mouth of the lion, that showed up in the middle of a fiery furnace, that raised Jesus from the dead … that’s our God, He hasn’t changed. It’s time that we start stretching our faith and believing that He can and will do the miraculous if we simply respond to Him in faith.
For more information, visit Forsaken Generation’s website.