Special Reports

Young adults tell stories of homelessness in Philadelphia

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The face of homelessness in Philadelphia is a changing phenomenon as more and more youths are struggling on the streets, fighting poverty with no place to go.

Even though the economy is looking up, many families are still trying to get back on their feet. In some cases, it is their kids that are left to fend for themselves.

Action News went to several shelters where we were told they don't have enough beds to care for all the youngsters who desperately walk through their doors trying to escape a life of homelessness.

Philadelphia's cold dark streets hide a hard truth in the nooks and crannies, on subways, and behind the shadows - more and more of our kids are struggling to survive.

20-year old Kaihyll Warren has been homeless for the last four years. Abandoned by his family, the sidewalks of Germantown became his home.

"Being homeless is really indescribable. Like, the only way you can actually describe it is by doing it," Warren said.

Action News also spoke with Victoria Miller, Anthony Robinson, and Gerrica King, who have all been homeless.

"The first time I got kicked out of my mom's house I was 15," Victoria Miller said.

"It's difficult for someone who doesn't have a place to stay to make it out here," explained Anthony Robinson.

Gerrica King tells us, "It is not easy in any aspect of the word in being homeless. It's a struggle in everything - finding food, finding shelter, finding clothing."

These four young adults have been homeless for between 3 and 5 years, and have now found shelter at Philadelphia's Covenant House.

Cordella Hill, the Executive Director of the Covenant House, explains, "They will ride the train if they don't have anywhere to sleep, until somebody says you have to get up. But, it doesn't look like typical homelessness. They really try to hide in plain sight."

Hill says volunteers are seeing a lot more kids go hungry, with no place to stay, often trying to hide the shame of their situation.

"A lot of kids that are homeless look no different than your typical 19 or 20-year-old. Many of them may be dressed in the same attire, but we notice things like maybe the cleanliness of their hands," Hill said.

"It's very stressful because you never know where you are going to lay your head at the next day, and you don't know if you are going to actually end up on the street or if you are going to get killed," Robinson said.

Robinson has been homeless for almost 5 years.

"My life was pretty good until I turned 15, and that's when my grandmother died and I started moving around," he said.

He moved from one friend's house to another, lying in doorsteps - sometimes in a shelter.

"I've seen a lot of friends that I've known personally die; they turned to gangs."

Hill says the Covenant House is now at capacity, and warns that if the community doesn't step in, she fears these youths may spend the rest of their lives as homeless adults.

"I don't see how we're going to break the cycle, I don't," Hill said.

Hill says it is impossible to count the number of homeless youth because these kids are often sleeping at a friend's house, in abandoned homes, or just walking the streets catching a nap when they can.

For more information on the Covenant House and how you can help, visit covenanthouse.org.

(Copyright ©2014 WPVI-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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Action News Investigation, special report, homeless, special reports, wendy saltzman
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