Homeless Teenage Girls Often Overlooked

Homeless teenage girls often overlooked

The Dallas Bar Association and the nonprofit agency Our Friends Place recently brought people together to talk about a group often overlooked -- homeless teenage girls.

"This is a group of young women kind of under the radar screen. You're not going to find them in the average homeless shelters," said Sue Thiers Hesseltine, executive director of Our Friends Place.

Many are too old for foster care yet are too young to really be on their own.

"They could potentially end up on the streets in places we don't want them to be," Christina Melton Crain, president of the Dallas Bar Association said. "They are part of the really at-risk youth of our society."

Without intervention, "the generational cycles will kick in -- the cycles of poverty, abuse, homelessness, incarceration," Hesseltine said.

Hesseltine runs Our Friends Place in Dallas. For more than 20 years, it's helped girls and young women break those generational cycles.

Younger girls ages 10 to 17 live in a therapeutic group home. They're referred from theTexas Department of Family and Protective Services, area juvenile justice departments, school counselors, clergy and parents. In some cases, families are reunited.

The agency's Transitional Living Center is for young women ages 18 to 24. They come from homeless shelters, social service groups or on their own. The goal is to get them to be economically self-sufficient.

"Given the opportunity, the majority of these girls and young women want a different life, and if we can give them that safe place and teach them the skills, they can make a difference, and they can be productive citizens," Hesseltine said.

Resources:  211, Letot Center, Mental Health America of Greater Dallas, Nexus Recovery Center, Our Friends Place, Promise House - Wesley Inn Program, TRAC.

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