SAN DIEGO — November is Youth Homeless Awareness Month, and the YMCA in San Diego County is on a mission to prevent homelessness early.

On Wednesday morning, a group of YMCA employees cheered on Justin Lipford and David Baker as the two men took off from Imperial Beach.

The two YMCA staff members are on a 550-mile journey to Sacramento to bring attention to the issue of youth homelessness. It’s the third year of what they call their “solidarity journey.”

The men are walking, bike riding and using public transportation to get to Sacramento. 

Along the way, they say they will stop in different communities to meet with local leaders to inspire hope and bring about change.

Baker, a program director for the YMCA, says the journey is personal as he himself was homeless as an adolescent.

“We see people landing in the streets for so many different reasons. Whether it be by rejection from the family, whether it’s lack in resources to make a way into the world, and so we need to show people transitioning into adulthood we wanna be that support that they may have never had,” said Baker.

He’s making the journey along with his fellow YMCA coworker, Lipford.

“We wanted to do something big, so we thought the solidarity journey was a way to galvanize community groups together,” Lipford explained. “And by making our way up to Sacramento symbolically and saying ‘this is all of California,’ hopefully together we’ll be in solidarity and getting these youngsters off the streets.”

California has the highest number of young people experiencing homelessness in the country, accounting for over one-third of all unaccompanied youth nationally.   Homelessness is one of the biggest social issues facing the San Diego community.

The trip to Sacramento is expected to take these YMCA staffers seven days.