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Homeless Teens Seeking Shelter in Chapel Hill

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CHAPEL HILL — It's cold, and no one should be out on the streets -- especially teenagers. But in Chapel Hill that's exactly where they are.

They're coming from all over the country, some after searching the Internet. All have one desire: to live life on the streets.

"They're out there everyday, wandering up and down the streets," says Dennis Marlow, an employee at a Franklin Street clothing store.

Marlow and fellow employees watch members of their own generation living on the street.

"It's hard to conceive that because my lifestyle is so different," says employee Jaci Borgan. "I think it's awful if they really don't have anywhere to go. I hope they can get into better terms."

On any given night, there could be as many as 30 teenagers living along Franklin Street. But on a cold winter night, you won't find the homeless teens in their usual place.

Donna Smith, a crisis counselor with the Chapel Hill Police Department, has an idea where they're likely spending their nights.

"You know, the kids are living in, like an abandoned building," says Smith. "There's no electricity, no heat, no kitchen where you can go cook food, no plumbing."

Smith says she has met some homeless teenagers who have come to Chapel Hill from across the country.

"They've heard through the grapevine that this is a good place to be," says the crisis counselor. "Some of them have friends here, some of them make friends through the Internet."

Right now, there's nowhere for the teens to go. They are not allowed in Chapel Hill's homeless shelter.

Chris Moran, director of the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, oversees the shelter and community kitchen on Rosemary Street. He says the shelter is not a solution for teenagers.

"If there are 30 young people sleeping either on the streets or in abandoned facilities; that's a lot of documentation for getting the community involved in a solution," says Moran.

Moran says the shelter doesn't have the appropriate supervision necessary for handling the teenagers.

Both Moran and Smith say the solution for the teens -- some of whom are runaways, others have been forced out by their parents -- is to build a shelter appropriate for them.


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