Reaching out to troubled youth on Cincinnati streets - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Reaching out to troubled youth on Cincinnati streets

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX10) - It was a cold night to be out on the streets Thursday night. But some people in Cincinnati are spending their days and nights there, no matter the weather.

Cincinnati's Drop-In Shelter is seeing a startling increase of young people, ages 18 to 24.

On days like that, the Lighthouse Youth Outreach Program case workers head out to help. A 15-year-old expressed gratitude when they handed him a sandwich.

An older gentleman had no idea where he would be sleeping tonight. The case workers scoured areas downtown, building trust and saving lives.

Inside the back of a large van, there is a world of good for Cincinnati's homeless and troubled youth.

"In here we have some sandwiches, some shoes, clothes, scarves, we've got gloves back here, we have some water up there, some space blankets," said Lea Drury, Case Manager for Lighthouse Youth Services.

There were also supplies for what they call harm reduction.

"We've got some condoms, stuff like that," Drury said.

"Our philosophy is that we meet them where they're at, we build relationships by giving them these supplies, by learning what their situation is," said Nelson Troche, Case Manager for Lighthouse Youth Services.

So they hopped-in their van and within minutes, saw someone they knew.

"We've seen as young as 17 we've encountered to much older, certainly 50, 60-year-old grandmothers we've come across," Troche said.

In this case, it was a young prostitute who was grateful for the sandwiches, water and condoms.

"How bout this sweater?" asked Drury.

Intern Ally Frankovic fished out a big bag and handed the young girl all the supplies, to which she replied, "Thank you very much."

"You doing OK?" Drury asked another couple on the street.

There are success stories, like 27-year-old Cameron Hill from California.

"Things are a lot better now," Hill said. He'd been on the streets 6 years. "I used to worry a lot."

Hill also kicked a drug problem.

"I put it in God's hands," he said.

And now he is heading to college soon to study criminal justice.

"You guys good? You have some place to stay tonight?" Drury asked two older men.

"No," the men replied. "We're just walking."

"Just walking?" Drury asked. "You know the cold shelter's open tonight."

"We're very dedicated to knowing their names, knowing their stories, many of them anticipate us bringing these sandwiches and supplies to them and we are consistent with that because it's important to build trust," Troche said.

It is that trust, seeing a familiar face, and then they sometimes get a breakthrough.

"When they see us they'll start crying," Drury said. "It is the one opportunity for them to let their guard down for a minute, we get a lot of people that we have hop in the van because they break down when they see us. We just talk to them for awhile and let them know that if they want help that we're there."

The case workers said there are people who do choose to stay out in the cold, on the streets. But many times that choice is coupled with mental illness or some sort of drug dependency.

They said their role is to identify what obstacles are preventing them from coming inside and to help people get by as best they can. 

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