When we wake up each morning and are confronted by things that just aren’t right most of us shake our heads, sigh and move on. Some of us wake up every day and make a difference. Shawna Kemppainen is one of those people. What can you do to make a difference?
When Shawna Kemppainen started working with homeless kids a few years ago, she was met with this statistic: Five thousand homeless young people die on American streets each year from illness, suicide or assault.
“This is one of those pieces of data that when I started this job, stopped me in my tracks,” she says.
So when you consider that Colorado Springs Police and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office work a combined total of some 900 runaway-teen cases each year, it brings home the possibility of a tragic end to a life that’s just getting started.
Local law enforcement says very few kids run away for long periods of time. But one girl from the region was killed years ago after being reported as a runaway, and another reports having been sexually assaulted just within the last three months.
Police and sheriff’s personnel say they prioritize runaways as much as they can, given that running away from home isn’t a crime, but they can’t call out the cavalry every time teenagers decide they’ll take their chances on the streets. Springs Police added a part-time investigator last year to focus exclusively on runaways, but he can do only so much.