Coloring Kitsap purple: Campaign raising awareness of child abuse, homelessness

Jo Clark has been involved with StandUp for Kids for eight years but it was new even to her to think about child homelessness as predominantly a by-product of mistreatment at home.

“I never thought about the connection between child abuse and homelessness until they came up with this,” she said.

“This” is the national StandUp for Kids’ awareness effort, launched for the first time this month. The goal is to collect 1 million signatures toward a petition in the new Turn Purple Campaign. Anyone can sign the Turn Purple pledge on the official Web site. Donations also are accepted, however, and the proceeds are intended to expand resources for youth living on the streets. Turn Purple also aims at reducing the number of runaways, raising awareness and recruiting advocates for abused children.

According to one Turn Purple statistic, 90 percent of children who run away have been subjected to mental, physical, emotional or sexual abuse. The program claims it is attempting to break stereotypes that homeless children and teens are troublemakers and rebels who leave their families on purpose.

Since learning of the national campaign, Clark, the executive director of the Bremerton chapter of StandUp for Kids, has been trying to paint all of Kitsap in the organization’s signature color.

She has written a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire asking her to declare April 22 Turn Purple Day.

The month-long national petition is partly designated to affect changes in legislature, Clark explained.

When it comes to grassroots efforts, however, she has left her awareness palette flexible when contacting area schools.

“I suggested they pick a day during the week and wear your school colors because we know CK is not going to wear purple,” Clark said with a smile.

Not long after StandUp for Kids sprung up in Kitsap in 1992, its focus shifted greatly to schools, including Central Kitsap, South and North school districts, Suquamish Tribe and sometimes Bremerton students. The idea is to share the awareness, so students can serve as resources to friends or classmates who find themselves steering clear of home.

“Our mission has become more preventative than after-the-fact,” Clark said.

The local StandUp for Kids, operating on donations from leadership organizations and clubs and relying on some 33 volunteers in their 40s, 50s and 60s, distributes snacks, groceries, clothing, bus passes, hygiene items, blankets and sleeping bags.

Volunteers attend kids’ nights at the YMCA in Bremerton and at Ridgetop Junior High School to connect with

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