Often, homeless youth don't look homeless...they don't look hungry...and they don't look troubled. It takes someone who was once homeless themselves to recognize the plight of homeless youth. One young woman is taking her experience to the streets in hopes of helping others.
Walking with purpose....Often for miles...Walking in hopes of rescuing homeless youth.
"I've done it for a year and a half-just being homeless-so I know the streets."
Familiarity with the streets is important when seeking to help homeless teens.
"I can relate to these kids. I know how they feel," says Mary-Elizabeth Allen who found herself without a home as a teenager.
Chris LeBlanc walks the street with Mary every day and says she is a key element in engaging teens and hopefully drawing them into the youth center at Life House.
"A lot of the kids through their lives have had mal-treatment from adults so it's very difficult for them to build relationships with any adults and she's that perfect bridge of that youth. So a lot of times they won't want to approach me but they'll approach her."
It wasn't long ago that Mary was homeless herself. Desperate for help.
"I was doing it all by myself," says Mary.
At seventeen she was not only homeless, but also pregnant.
Keeping the baby was not an option. She refused to bring a child into the harsh reality of living on the streets.
"I needed to help my child, but then I needed to help myself."
As hard as it was, Mary gave her child to a loving family, and sought help.
Now, Mary is using her experience with desperation to help others. She takes her message to the streets through the Life House Street Outreach program.
And if you ask Mary, the best part of her success story is that she has developed a relationship with her birth daughter.
"I was playing with her for 45 minutes and she called me, first mom. That just made my day. My year actually."
With her heart lightened, Mary continues to walk the streets, in hopes of saving other teen moms and homeless youth from the pains and struggles that plagued her for so long.
Besides working for Life House as a member of the outreach team, Mary is working on getting her high school diploma. She then hopes to pursue a career in social work so that she can continue helping homeless, at-risk youth.
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