Volunteers fan out across Philadelphia to count city's homeless youth

Tim Jimenez
January 24, 2019 - 10:56 am
Volunteers gather count homeless young people in Philadelphia.

Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A group of about 100 volunteers were out in the rain Thursday morning to try to get an idea of how many young people are homeless in Philadelphia. 

It's called the Youth Count. It coincides with the annual homeless count the city does, but it focuses on people between ages 13 and 24.

"We really want to get a snapshot in time of what youth homelessness looks like in Philadelphia," said Caitlin Dorn, who works with Valley Youth House, a social services nonprofit that helps organize the count. 

RELATED: Hidden homelessness: What overnight census of people living on the street misses

She says volunteers walked the streets, drove around, and hopped on a subway or bus to fan out across the city. Some of the people they encounter don't necessarily live on the streets.

"Jumping from house to house, sleeping on floors of friends and family members, staying in abandoned buildings — you know, finding those nooks that may feel safe," Dorn said. 

Violet, a volunteer, knows about finding those nooks. She says she was homeless once, herself.

Violet, a volunteer with Youth Count, was once homeless, herself.
Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio

"It was horrible. I don't even know how to explain it because I wouldn't want anybody to experience it ever," she said. "It was kind of hectic. Like, it was really cold most nights. It smells horrible, clothes reeked." 

But something finally clicked a few years back, and she got help through Valley Youth House. And she volunteers now, so she can maybe reach someone just like her and share a message of hope.

"If you really wanna change, if you really want help and want to make the next day better — or however you want to call it — go to these programs, because they really are gonna help," Violet said.

"What do they say? It takes a village to raise a child. So, I believe I am one of them."

Youth Count volunteers received hats and bags for their efforts.
Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio