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Volunteers Reach Out to Homeless Youth

Mar 1, 2015

Jeremiah Kerr and Nicole Marchman contact homeless youth
Credit Quincy Walters / WUSF News

On Thursday, Hillsborough County conducted its annual homeless count. Volunteers canvassed neighborhoods in an effort to get a better picture of the homeless population.

The Ybor Youth Clinic focused on an often unnoticed demographic: homeless youth. 

At 8 p.m., in a room of the YMCA on East Palm Avenue in Tampa, the Clinic's volunteers were on phones, looking for anyone under 25 without a home. 

Jeremiah Kerr, the outreach and community development coordinator for the Clinic, said some don't consider themselves homeless. Some call it couch-surfing.

"It's rough. Kids don't typically engage in the homeless count," he said. "The primary reason for this is so many of them don't identify as being homeless - they have different words for it." 

Some, however, do live on the streets. 

Shiva Beharry, the Clinic's homeless youth coordinator, put on a hoodie and went outside. He's hoping to find a 24-year-old who volunteers had just identified. 

"I'm going to run down to the Salvation Army, to the women's shelter, to see if I can get this client a bed," Beharry said. "Because no one should have to sleep on the streets."

This week's count identified about 20 homeless youth. While Beharry said he knows he'll meet many more in the days and months to come, Kerr said the low numbers don't reflect reality, making it hard to acquire funding for programs for homeless youth.