Each night, 600 youth in the Houston area are sleeping on the streets.
Gatane Pauwels is the president of The Pink Giraffe House, which opened last summer in Montrose to help the city's homeless teens and children.
She said people commonly think homeless kids are just runaways, but in many cases, it isn't true:
- 35% of homeless youth leave home to escape sexual abuse
- Approximately 26% leave because of a parent or parents with substance abuse issues
- 40% are kicked out because their parents did not approve of their LGBT identity
According to studies cited by The Pink Giraffe House, youth ages 12 to 17 are at higher risk for homelessness than adults nationwide.
The Pink Giraffe House opens to help homeless youth
But while children and teens in Houston might think sleeping under bridges, behind buildings and even inside dumpsters is a safer alternative than being at home, there are other dangers some don't realize.
Within 36 hours of leaving home, one in three teens living on the street will be lured into prostitution, Pauwels said.
Another shocking study revealed 32 percent of homeless youth have attempted suicide because of such bleak circumstances in their fight to survive.
Fortunately, there is help for homeless youth
Last September, Pauwels and staff opened The Pink Giraffe House on Mason Street and Fargo Street to help provide a safe space for these homeless children.
What can homeless youth expect at The Pink Giraffe House?
She said they offer a safe haven for young victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment, and a chance at a better life.
"Help with homework, GED, tutoring, maybe helping with resume writing, crisis counseling, and then fun things for them," Pauwels said. "We're trying to help homeless children get back on their feet."
Last year, Pauwels said between 35 to 45 youth are helped each night, but there is always demand for more.
You can find out how to volunteer or donate by visiting The Pink Giraffe House website.
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