Saturday , April 13 2024

SPECIAL REPORT: Homeless Youth, The "Invisible Population"

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<font size="2"><p>Youth homelessness is a growing problem in the Central Valley.&nbsp;According to statistics from 2013, Fresno and Madera County has the fourth largest population of kids, teens and young adults living on the streets.&nbsp;The kids are unsheltered and alone, but there is a group of people in who are trying to help.&nbsp; CBS&nbsp;47’s Angela Greenwood has a in-depth look at the &quot;invisible population.&quot;</p></font><p>They’re a hidden population, who often go unnoticed.&nbsp; But they’re here – teens and young adults – who call the streets their home.</p><p>Fresno EOC Sanctuary outreach manager Joe Martinez says, &quot;The streets can be cruel, they can be mean, they can be deadly.&quot;</p><p>In Fresno and Madera County, it’s the reality for nearly 300 kids (likely even more, according to Martinez) ages 11 to 24, surviving on a day to day basis.</p><p>&quot;They’re thinking about life and death,&quot; Martinez.</p><p>Their biggest worries are not school, prom or graduation.&nbsp; Instead, it’s where they’ll find their next meal or a place to sleep.</p><p>We ran into a 23 year old homeless man, named Nick, sitting on a wall in front of Denny’s restaurant in downtown Fresno. We asked him where he was planning to sleep for the night.</p><p>Nick responded by saying, &quot;I don’t know right now, because they raided the abandoned building I was sleeping in.&quot;</p><p>At 15, Nick says he was kicked out of his house for smoking marijuana.&nbsp; He says he’s been on the streets ever since; aside from a couple of stays in jail.</p><p>&quot;While I was homeless, I was stealing food because in San Jose they didn’t have a Poverello House.&quot;</p><p>&quot;Homelessness does not have a face, it doesn’t have a zip code; it crosses all boundaries,&quot; says Martinez.</p><p>Everyone’s story varies; different circumstances that led to a life on the streets.&nbsp; Some teens were being rebellious or experimenting with drugs.&nbsp; Some were abused, molested or kicked out of their homes for coming out.&nbsp; Others age out of the foster care system and nowhere to go.</p><p>Martinez says, &quot;You don’t have to look very far to see it.&quot;</p><p>Martinez sees it everyday, because everyday he’s attempting to make a change.</p><p>We’re serving young people who are in dire straits; young people who are living on the edge,&quot; says Martinez.</p><p>Martinez and his team are part of the Fresno EOC Sanctuary’s outreach program.&nbsp; They invited CBS47 to spend some with them on the street, as they reach out to homeless young people.&nbsp; Each day, sometimes twice a day, they load up a large van up with supplies and hit the roads, from downtown Fresno to Parkway Drive and the Tower District.</p><p>&quot;That’s always a good icebreaker with those who are homeless is food.&nbsp; Food is about meeting someone where they’re at; meeting their immediate need.&quot;</p><p>Until the team pulled up, Rodney Newhouse hadn’t eaten in 12 hours.&nbsp; He was grateful for the food.&nbsp; He’s 27 now, but became homeless when he was just 17.</p><p>Newhouse says, &quot;I had a falling out with my dad years back.&quot;</p><p>We continued scouting the streets with the team handing out food, clothes hygiene products and information about drop in shelters and the sanctuary shelter which is open 24/7, 365 days a year.</p><p>Martinez passed the information onto Nick, asking that he call the sanctuary if he couldn’t find a safe place to sleep.</p><p>Nick never called, and that’s often the biggest challenge when trying to fight youth homelessness- kids who don’t reach out for help.&nbsp; But, then there are those who do; people like Paul Rodriguez.</p><p>&quot;The life I was living wasn’t getting me nowhere,&quot; says Rodriguez.</p><p>Six months ago, Paul and his girlfriend were homeless – sleeping wherever they could; in parks and on playground benches.</p><p>&quot;It sucks.&nbsp; It was embarrassing.&nbsp; It was cold and there was sometimes where I didn’t even eat.&quot;</p><p>Eventually, the 19 year old, who had once been involved in gangs, went to jail.&nbsp; He was there, sitting behind bars, when that light bulb went off.&nbsp; As soon as he was released, he checked into the EOC shelter.</p><p>&quot;It gave me hope, fed me, and gave me somewhere to sleep.&nbsp; They were just there,&quot; says Rodriguez.</p><p>Paul now has his own apartment, a new car and works part time with the city of Fresno’s Homeless Task Force.&nbsp; He’s living proof that with help from the community, and a little self help, homeless youth – the ‘invisible population’ – can break free from a life on the streets.<br /></p></div>

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