An “understanding gap” affects the problem of homelessness among people 17-24 years of age in the Midlands, according to Stacey Atkinson and Jacquan Riley, guest speakers at Capital Rotary’s April 4 meeting. The pair (shown in photo with Rotarians Perry Lancaster at left and Tony Thompson at right) said there were 130 homeless youth in the area last year. Atkinson, a retired juvenile justice official, said the situation is a housing, economic and education issue but more public awareness could create a “community of care” to seek solutions. “We need leaders willing to serve as mentors and life coaches for these young people,” Atkinson said. “We need leaders who can offer opportunities for these young people to show what they have to offer.” She also noted there’s a need for scholarships to help youth enroll in technical college trades and certificate programs leading to quick, stable employment. Atkinson is graduate of Leadership South Carolina and has been a licensed SC Master Level Social Worker since 1989.