Country music performer Jimmy Wayne began his walk halfway across America on January 1, 2010 in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of homeless youth. On Friday, he crossed the Arkansas border into Oklahoma on his way from Nashville, TN, to Phoenix, AZ. Jimmy is averaging 20 miles per day on his “Meet Me Halfway” campaign, and is spending his time working to raise money for such youth service organizations as HomeBase Youth Services in Phoenix and Monroe Harding in Nashville.
There are an estimated 1,682,900 homeless teens in America. This sobering statistic is one that Jimmy Wayne is personally familiar with and is working toward changing. When he was young, Jimmy’s biological father abandoned his family, his mother was sent to prison, and his step-father physically abused him. Jimmy spent time in and out of foster homes and eventually ended up living on the streets. Finally, when he was 16, Russell and Beatrice Costner took him into their home. The Costners recognized his musical talent and encouraged him to pursue his musical career. After successfully auditioning for Opryland talent scouts in 1998, Jimmy Wayne moved to Nashville and began to write and record country music. He has released several hit songs, including, “Do You Believe Me Now”, “I Will”, and “Sara Smile” (recorded with Darryl Oates). However, Jimmy’s goal is not just to become a great songwriter. “My goal is to build a foundation based on hit songs. Someday, I’d like to build an orphanage for kids who are too old to be adopted,” says Jimmy Wayne. His “Meet Me Halfway” project is helping him to pave the way to achieve this goal.
There are a variety of reasons youth end up on the streets. Most homeless teens fall into one of three categories: family problems, economic problems, or residential instability. An estimated 47% of homeless youth experienced physical abuse in their homes, while 17% were sexually abused. Economic crises also drive families out of their homes, with the children often getting separated from their parents at homeless shelters. Additionally, many children who live in foster care group homes “age out” of these facilities before they finish school and are able to find jobs to support their living expenses. As a result, they often end up living in the streets.
The following are some homeless shelters for youth located in the Joplin/four-state area. Please help make a difference in a child’s life by volunteering at or donating to a shelter near you!
Covenant House, Missouri
Empowering Youth, Boys & Girls Town of Missouri
Cherokee Nation Youth Services