Covenant House welcomes room for 12 more in need



ORLANDO, Fla. - Twelve homeless teenagers will have a place to go over the holidays, but hundreds of other teens still have no place to go at night.

It took Covenant House volunteers less than 45 minutes to put beds together, but they hope new pillows and sheets can have an impact that lasts a lifetime.

GED instructor Greg Johnson didn't grow up homeless, but he said he's no stranger to the lifestyle.

"Pretty much, the streets raised me until I was 21, 22," Johnson said.

Johnson has worked at Covenant House as a GED instructor helping homeless and struggling young people to get a diploma for the last seven years.

Before Covenant House, many of them didn't have anywhere to sleep, either.

"At a young age, not knowing (what) those answers are can really be tough on them," Johnson said.

It's a growing problem.

About 500 people between the ages of 18 and 21 called Covenant House in Orlando looking for someplace to stay in 2011.

Last year, that number jumped to more than 700, but the 24-bed facility could only help about half of them.

Eyewitness News asked Executive Director Jim Gress how many young people are living on the street, but he said they're hard to count.

"They're kind of the hidden population of the homeless, they're good at hiding," Gress said.

Gress said when they're hiding, they have a better chance of becoming victims of crime or committing it themselves.

"You don't know where you're going to eat, you may start by robbing through garbage cans, you may end up shoplifting," Gress said.

Thanks to the Sleep Out fundraising event last week, two new rooms will give 12 more people a chance.