Homeless teens in Northern Kentucky on the rise

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - It's bitter cold outside and living in that winter chill, is a higher-than-ever number of teens, right on the streets of northern Kentucky.

It's just one of those awful signs of these economic times. Imagine your mother or father telling you that they can no longer make their mortgage, they can no longer afford to feed and house you. Your comfortable life as you know it is about to hit the skids.

The door is always open at 1315 East 20th Street in Covington. That's where a 17-year-old, we called him "Ben," is about to step out of the shelter and back into his own life.

"They helped me get an apartment," he said. "And they're helping me get a job that way I'll be ready to be on my own."

"Ben" turns 18 next week but he's already faced more on the street than most men twice his age.

"We all know each other pretty well," he said. "We all help each other when we need help."

Outreach Worker Jarrett Spisak walks the streets every night looking for kids in jeopardy. He helps bring kids get control of their young lives through the program, Homeward Bound.

"Around soup kitchens, underneath bridges," said Spisak. "I mean we're really out there. They're all over."

"Our numbers are going up," said Michael Clemons, who is the Coordinator for Brighton House's Transitional Program. "We're getting a lot of referrals for kids to come into the program."

"There are a lot of places now that we know like homeless camps that are typical," said Spisak. "They move so you have to sorta be out there looking around for them."

And on bitter winter nights like we've already seen, the Cold Shelter in Covington, KY, is at capacity.

"Yeh," Spisak chimed-in. "It's full."

But once they get under the wing of Brighton House, things change.

"Overwhelmed," said Clemons. "That's a term we don't use here at Brighton Center. We always think that we have a way that we can serve anybody, all the people here in our community."

And for any of the suburbanite newly-homeless, Spisak said they are easier to reach than seasoned street veterans.

"They're not used to living on the streets, they're not used to soup kitchens, so they're more likely to want to accept services," said Spisak.

Homeward Bound and Brighton House are giving kids more than just a ray of hope, the kids are getting something real they can build on for a lifetime.

"Provide for them along the way so that they can come back to this community," Clemons said. "And do the same thing we're doing to help them."

And that is "Ben's" plan, once he graduates from college. He plans to study Criminal Justice.

"I figured if I turn out to be successful, I can come back to places like this and help people," he said.

Homeward Bound is a 16-bed, co-ed facility, which is open 24 hours. They average about 670 requests a year from kids asking for help.

If you need assistance and are between the ages of 11 and 17, call the Brighton House and Homeward Bound. Their number is 859-581-1111.

Copyright 2009 WXIX-TV and Raycom Media. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.