Special Report: "Barely Living"

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -   Homeless advocates say one of the fastest growing segments of Albany's homeless population are teens. Kids between 14 and 18 years old, living on the street with no supervision or help daily.

18 year old Jadeel Price left home and spent much of last winter homeless. "Surviving. Surviving day to day. Finding a place to eat. A place to stay at night," Price said.

Price said he left home because of family problems, and suddenly had to learn the cold streets.  "Try to find a place to stay at nighttime, if you don't have a place to stay."

Sometimes that meant an alley or the bench in front of the bus station. Price found the Salvation Army for a bed, but soon had to sell his blood for money. "I needed food and to help pay for the Salvation Army to have a place to stay at night."

Shaquita Jones said she left home because she did not want to obey her mother.  "I was just 17 when I was first on my own," she said.

She found an apartment, but soon was facing eviction. She worked odd jobs, and also sold her blood for cash. "I mean it's painful, but you got to do what you got to do when you about to get kicked out of your home," Jones said.

Jones said seeing other kids living on the streets made her desperate so she started walking downtown asking for help.  "It was stressful. I just got tired of crying and pushed myself harder."

Jones found Open Arms, an advocacy group helping homeless kids. Three years ago they used to see one teen needing help a couple of times a month. Now they see 3 or 4 a day.

"It's really getting worse," said Open Arms Transitional Life Coach Shaundra Stephens.

Even at his lowest, Jadeel Price fiercely declares he did not turn to crime.  "I didn't sell no drugs or nothing like that," Price said.

Price found this homeless shelter for food, and soon was working as a volunteer serving other people, refusing to give up. "I stay positive, and I don't do all the other things people do on the streets."

Advocates know crime is part of life for some homeless teens. "Survival. Sometimes they have to steal to eat," Stephens said.

"God kept me going. Praying everyday," Price said.

Jones said she was desperate at times. "What if I be on the streets when it's cold. What if somebody killed me, cause I'm a female, and men will try anything."

But she also kept positive, and today has a job, is going to school, and is positive about her future.  "I'm proud. I'm proud," Jones said.

Price is also in school and working, but still volunteers in the shelter feeding other homeless people.

"I want to become a top chef one day," Price said.  You a pretty good cook? "Yes, sir."

A dream that living on Albany streets could not stop.

Price said "I just want to live successful and have a better life."

A better life is what more and more homeless teens are dreaming of, but still face a fight for survival each night.

Open Arms is providing life coaching for Price and Jones and other teens in need of help, but they admit the numbers has overwhelmed them, so they are having to turn to other agencies for support.

They have a crisis line for homeless teens, at 229-431-1121.

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