Steven: These teens are setting up to sleep on the cement.
“This is my shelter, got my protection from the rain. I’m good!
Steven: We are surrounded by sleeping bags, cardboard boxes. This is where you guys are going to sleep tonight. Why are you here? Why are you doing this?
“We’re going to experience teen homelessness. All my friends are out there going to karaoke nights and parties and whatever they’re doing tonight on a friday night. I’m experiencing something new. I’m experiencing something different.”
Steven: Experiencing life lived on the streets. They are one group of hundreds of students from six states across the U.S., participating in the Solidarity Sleepout, an event sponsored by Youth Crisis Center the Covenant House to raise awareness for teenage homelessness.
“People do it every day. So why can’t we?”
Steven: And they are not making it any easier on themselves.
“I think a pillow is kind of a luxury when it comes to sleeping out. I don’t think most homeless people have pillows, so I don’t want one myself.”
“I have my sleeping bag and a cardboard box for a little bit of padding.”
Steven: This can be what it is like every day for the more than 3 million people in the U.S. who experience homelessness each year. One-third of them are teenagers.
Not all cases of teenage homelessness stem from poverty or addictions. It is something that came as a total surprise for twenty-year-old Geanna Mohamed.
Geanna Mohamed: If I would have thought when I was fourteen that I would be living in a shelter being twenty years old, I would have never guessed it.
Steven: She has been living at the Covenant House Shelter in New York since last July. But only a few years ago, she had been the first of her eight siblings to head to college. Until at seventeen, Geanna had a falling out with her family back in San Francisco, cutting ties with them completely.
Geanna: I think now, not having any of my siblings in my life or any support, that’s when I know that this is real. This is really happening to me.
Steven: Before long, she found herself 3,000 miles away from home and out of school with nowhere left to go.
Geanna: I had my days where I had to sleep in a bus station or travel here or travel there or stay up all night just because I didn’t have anywhere to go. It was a terrible experience. It was horrible.
Steven: It is stories like Geanna’s that led these teens to sleep out, to show they care and help Convenant House raise money to get other young people off the streets.
Fortunately for them, on this night the rain stayed away. But even though they all stayed dry, they still got a personal wake-up call from yours truly.
Alright so it is about seven in the morning, the night is over. Let’s see how everybody slept.
Isaiah, wake up, my friend. Good morning!
Isaiah: Good morning.
Steven: How about this wake up call?
Isaiah: This wake up call? I think my reaction says it all. My cardboard treated me great. I have a pizza box here.
Steven: Megan… Megan? How did your night go?
Megan: It’s a little uncomfortable. My neck is killing me. I definitely experienced one night of what these kids go through every single night. We’re complaining here. Oh, whatever, we’ve got a rocky surface to sleep on but these kids go through this every night, and they go through it without food, without parents. It must be hard.
Steven: Hard. But not hopeless.
Geanna: Being homeless, it’s not something that you can see. It’s just something that happens to happen to the best of some people. And it’s just one of those moments in your life when you have to figure out are you going to go up or are you going to go down? And I chose to go up. I don’t want to go down.
Steven Fabian, Channel One News.