Homeless youth campaign opens in Cleveland

CLEVELAND - She's an attractive, friendly 17-year-old high school junior who has A's and B's in school. And, she's homeless. 

The Cleveland teenager, who asked us to call her Lauren, says her mother kicked her out of the house about five months ago.  Lauren spent the first night on her own on a park bench.

"It was cold," she said. "It really hurt me because I didn't know what to do.  It was dark."

An eye-catching, thought-provoking display that represents the many youth, like Lauren, who are homeless opened Wednesday at Tower City.  Lifelike, faceless teen mannequins, dressed in hooded sweatshirts are catching the eye of everyone who passes by.

"We really want people to take a closer look at homeless and missing youth and really see that there's kids in need," said Karen McHenry, program manager for the Homeless and Missing Youth Program at Bellefaire JCB.

"Once a kid is thrown out or on the street, we know that within 72 hours of being out on the street the youth will be solicited for sex," she said.

Lauren is fortunate.  She has found a home with friends who care. But it's still not "her" home.

"It gets pretty lonely," she said. "I do cry sometimes. It hurts."

The Bellefaire hotline is (216) 570-8010.

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