If You See Them
Young, Unhoused, and Alone in America
by Vicki Sokolik
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Pub Date 13 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 13 Feb 2024
They hide in plain sight. They survive on free school breakfasts and lunches, join school sports teams in order to shower, sleep on friends’ couches, in parks, or on the streets. Their official designation is “unaccompanied homeless youth”—they are not "runaways" breaking free from strict parenting; these are kids seeking safety. They have escaped abusive parents, have been abandoned, or have never had a home to begin with.
When Vicki Sokolik’s son brought home a classmate who was living on her own and was dropping out of school to support herself, Vicki stepped in to help. As she learned more about the invisible population of young people navigating life alone, she discovered the countless ways they are overlooked and impeded by the system. She founded a nonprofit and worked to change legislation in her home state of Florida to give these kids agency over their lives.
If You See Them wakes us up to the issue of youth homelessness in America, through Sokolik’s own story of advocacy and through the voices of the kids themselves. Her grassroots action demonstrates the world-shifting power of compassion, acceptance, belonging, and self-determination, and the capacity each of us has to change our communities for the better.
“Proof that the ordinary among us can do the extraordinary, Vicki Sokolik's If You See Them shines a floodlight on our most vulnerable children and compels us to action." —Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of What the Eyes Don't See
"In this deeply compassionate book, Vicki Sokolik gives homeless youth a chance to be seen and heard--and gives readers ample reason to take action." —Anya Kamenetz, author of The Stolen Year
“Helping traumatized teenagers with no homes or functional parents is hard, complicated, maddening work, but Vicki Sokolik won't take no for an answer. Her zealous, sometimes maddening, but ultimately heroic persistence turns out to be just what it takes to overcome the defenses of her young clients and push them, struggling, into a better life. This is a book for anyone who knows how tricky it can be to help.”—Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help