Hollywood’s homeless youth

Hollywood still lures the young to its streets, hoping for fame. But it also shelters youth on the run, those who can’t live at home, or else never had a stable place to call home during childhood.  I spent a night with an outreach team from the non profit organization Covenant House for this story (Daily News, Dec. 12, 2010).  They encourage homeless youth age 18 to 22 to seek out services, such as drug rehab, emergency shelter, or at least a hot meal at their building on Western Avenue. On a recent night, I met Paul, Katie, and Mischa, all homeless youth in their early 20s. From my story:

HOLLYWOOD – The long white van with tinted windows crawls to a stop off a Hollywood street one night, luring those too old to be called children but too young to care about 401(k)s.

What comes from inside the vehicle brightens otherwise slack-jawed expressions on sallow faces: free peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, bottled water and, if the private donations have come through, underwear, socks and toothpaste.

On a recent cold evening, the homeless youths who live on Hollywood’s streets are forgoing food for anything that brings them warmth.

“All right!” said a gaunt young man in an oversized hoodie, as he waves away a sandwich and instead embraces a free gray fleece blanket handed to him from the van’s window.

Twice a night, seven nights a week, outreach workers from the local nonprofit Covenant House pack a van with food, clothes and their collective knowledge to roam the famous boulevards and the unknown side streets of Hollywood.

Their job is to provide information about services available at Covenant House for homeless and at-risk youth ages 18 to 22, such as emergency housing, meals, some medical care, and referrals to drug rehab facilities. These are kids, outreach workers say, who either aged out of the foster care system, ran away from homes where a mother or a father betrayed their love or lost jobs because of the economy.

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