Detroit Woman Honored For Incredible Work With Homeless Youth

"This could be your child."

Stephanie Taylor drives around Detroit in a minivan, but she's not heading to a soccer game. Instead, she's scouring the streets for at-risk youth, hoping to give them a helping hand if they need it.

Taylor, who was honored in Detroit last week, helps run Covenant House. The faith-based shelter for 18 to 24-year-olds in Southeast Michigan offers job training, housing, and support services for homeless and at-risk youth.

"Usually when young people are homeless and they don't have anywhere to go, they might sit in emergency rooms," Taylor told local news WDIV ClickOnDetroit. "They might go there to play like they're sick. They might sit in the transit center because it's free to get in. They might sit inside the Greyhound bus station or they might sit around in restaurants and coffee shops and things like that until they figure out what they're next step is going to be."

Taylor visits those usual spots to find young men and women who might need help. If they do, Taylor will pick them up and take them to the Covenant House or tell them where they can go to get the help they need. She's encountered youth who are being trafficked or used to sell drugs without even knowing it, she said. Sometimes, young women will tell her they are staying "at their boyfriend's" house, when really their boyfriend is letting them stay there under the condition she has sex with them or sell drugs for him.

In her 20 years of outreach for the Covenant House, she's helped keep young adults in a clean bed, and help keep them away from much worse. 

Forty-eight hours after being on the streets in Southeast Michigan, one in three young people will be approached by a trafficker, it says on the Covenant House website. Nearly 20 percent will become the victim of violent crime, and 459 will spend at least one day every month without food. 

It's not just Southeast Michigan, either. Youth homelessness is on the rise in America, and one in 30 children — nearly 2.5 million — were homeless in the U.S. in 2015, according to a study by the National Center on Family Homelessness. On a single night in 2013, 40,727 unaccompanied homeless youth aged 18-24 were in the United States. 

"This could be your child," Taylor told WPIV. "This can be your sister, your brother, and I tell people all the time, we're not immune. Something (can) happen to us. Who is going to be out there to approach your kid if their family members turn their back on him? Just to hear kids say, 'I wouldn't know what I would have done if you hadn't pulled up and helped me.'"

Cover image via Covenant House Vimeo

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