When an Idaho native discovered that 65 percent of foster children who turn 18 become homeless, she decided to help. Last week, she volunteered to be homeless for five days.
20-year-old Shaylee Hatch spent her Thanksgiving week on the streets of Boise and Salt Lake City to raise awareness for the homeless youth, specifically those who have been kicked out of the foster care system at age 18 with nowhere to go.
“Thanksgiving is a big holiday where people are really giving and grateful and I just felt really strongly that would be the perfect time to do something like this. I wanted people to actually take the time to hear it,” she said.
So from Tuesday to Saturday, she and a few friends sat on the streets. No food, no water, and nowhere to sleep.
"I had a couple of granola bars packed in my bag just in case I got super hungry, but we relied on the generosity of other people that we met to bring us food."
The difficult part, she says, was that she and her friends were completely disconnected from the other people they knew in order to really step into the role of the homeless-- and it was cold outside.
"I literally have misused the word cold for 20 years of my life," she said.
Aside from the cold, ending her experience being homeless was the hardest part for hatch.
"I got to know these people, and I love them. Their stories are so inspiring and the homeless community really does take care of each other."
Hatch said the best part of her homeless experience was being with the homeless on Thanksgiving.
"I was in Boise and I went to a homeless shelter. I have never felt that pure energy of gratitude in my life. It was mind-blowing because there I was, sitting in this big group, eating this thanksgiving dinner that was not my normal Thanksgiving dinner. They ran out of Turkey, so I ate chicken, and these people were so grateful for what they had when they hardly had anything. And just seeing and experiencing that, nothing I don't think is going to ever be able to top that experience. It was so powerful,” she said.
Hatch has founded the Temporary Home Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to helping the homeless youth find homes and jobs and educational training.
Hatch said her passion for helping the homeless youth was awakened by a friend in choir class.
“She was crying, it was her 18th birthday. We were all like, 'Why are you crying? You know, I'm so excited to be 18 you don't have to listen to anybody,'" Hatch said. "She told me she was in foster care and she had no idea what she was going to do with her life. It was kind of like she felt like her life was over. To me that was ridiculous. It just sparked something inside me, and it's just been there ever since. It's just grown over the years."
Hatch said she will be posting a video of her experiences taken on a hidden GoPro camera on her website by December 6.
She will also be travelling to other parts of the country over Christmas and into January, from New York City to Birmingham, Alabama.