Local News

Raleigh church giving homeless teens a temporary home

Posted September 22, 2015 6:13 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2015 6:13 a.m. EDT

— Homelessness is down 25 percent in Wake County, but among women and young people, it’s soaring.

The number of homeless teenagers has doubled in the last five years, many of them turned away by their families.

Marty Jackson, 18, and Kat Gibbs, 20, are expecting their first child, and they’re homeless.

“Most people, even when you're walking on the streets, they turn up their noses or try not to look at you,” Gibbs said.

Jackson and Gibbs are among 10 people who have set up a camp at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh. The couple said they’ve been living at the church since March.

The couple said they expected the church to kick them out once leaders learned about the makeshift sleeping place. Instead, they received a surprising reaction.

“We started trying to get to know them and hear their stories,” said Rev. Nancy Petty, senior pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.

While some churches and many businesses choose to charge the homeless with trespassing, Petty said the church is struggling to answer a call for help.

Two of the 10 people who have been staying at the church said they had been kicked of their homes after telling their families they were gay.

“We've seen a huge increase in the number of LGBTs that we serve,” said Danielle Butler, director of crisis and homeless services for Haven House. “It has become more socially acceptable and safer for kids to come out, but their families are not ready for it.”

Jackson – who says he left an abusive situation at home – said the Pullen group, and now the church, has become his new family.

“It’s really moving to see there’s actually people out there that care about helping the homeless,” Jackson said.