Sparky Harlan

Sparky Harlan

Sparky Harlan, Executive Director/CEO at Bill Wilson Center, is a nationally recognized advocate for youth in foster care and in the juvenile justice system, as well as homeless and runaway youth.

Posts by Sparky Harlan

Learning from the Brenden Tiggs Tragedy

On Sunday, Brenden Tiggs, an 18-year-old African American student at San Jose State, committed suicide in his dorm room. According to local media, his dad did not believe the coroner’s ruling, because his son was doing well and seemed happy. While it’s a topic we often don’t like to talk about, suicide rates for young men in the United States are especially troubling.

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Help Homeless Youth during the Holidays

San Jose has one of the largest homeless populations in the nation, and the recent cold weather has resulted in several deaths. (File photo)

Stories on the plight of the homeless during the recent cold weather have focused on adults living in encampments. But in San Jose there is another homeless population that rarely gets any attention:  homeless college students. CNN Money wrote about a homeless college student who was turned out of her Midwest school during winter break. Where do homeless students living in local college dorms go during winter break?

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Youth Homelessness a Growing Problem in San Jose, Santa Clara County

Omar, a young man interviewed this summer by San Jose Inside, was one of 1,200 homeless youth under the age of 25 in Santa Clara County. (Photo by Chip Scheuer)

A point-in-time count on the number of homeless individuals and families in San Jose and Santa Clara County was completed earlier this year. Santa Clara County had 1,200 homeless youth under age 25—either in homeless shelters or on the street. This was more than the number counted for San Francisco during the same time. It is hard to believe that we have more homeless youth and young adults than San Francisco, but the numbers don’t lie.

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Human Trafficking Sweep Shows Communities Must Come Together

Operation Cross Country, a three-day nationwide enforcement campaign by the FBI focusing on underage victims of sex trafficking, recently concluded with the rescue of 105 sexually exploited children and the arrests of 150 pimps and other individuals. In the Bay Area, 12 children were rescued from pimps. While the issue is not new for runaway programs, aggressive pimps going after these young people is now more common. Vulnerable youth, especially those on the run, are often preyed upon by pimps. Studies show that runaways are often identified and targeted by pimps within 48 hours of hitting the streets. Runaway programs need to learn how keep young people safe and must work with local law enforcement when victims seek help from runaway shelters.

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Review: ‘The Fosters’ and the Complexities of TV, Child Welfare

A show debuting this summer on ABC, The Fosters, details the lives of a lesbian couple raising a household that includes foster children.

I had high hopes for the new ABC Family cable show The Fosters when I saw the first promo. Produced by Jennifer Lopez, the new summer series highlights a new “non-traditional” family with foster children, and I was anxious to see how a foster family and the child welfare system would be portrayed on TV. But, after watching a few episodes, and speaking with a couple of foster kids about it, I have mixed feelings.

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