Some local business leaders are hoping to shine the spotlight on the teen homeless problem in South Florida. Covenant House executives slept in a parking lot Thursday night to bring awareness and raise money for teens affected by homelessness.
Coloring books and crayons are what Brittany Ewing and her 5-year-old daughter Neveah have in mind these days. A stark difference from where Brittany was just eight months ago when she was living on the street in Miami.
"That's what hurt the most. It was depressing and I felt like giving up, and thought why? Why should I live? I felt like things would never get better," Ewing said.
Neveah was living with her grandmother at the time. Brittany spent the better part of a year sleeping in parks and even contemplated suicide.
"Depressing, because I didn't know where I'd lay my head," said 18-year-old David Simeo.
Simeo said he knows what Brittany was feeling. Unable to see eye-to-eye with his stepfather, he was pushed out of his house in Miami, while still in high school.
Both teens turned to the Covenant House in Fort Lauderdale, which focuses on giving teenagers and young adults a new start.
"For many young people, if Covenant House wasn't here, they'd be in one of three options: Jail, an institution or death, and I've seen all three, but I've also seen incredible successes," said Jim Gress, Covenant House Executive Director.
"A lot of people assume homeless are older folks, and frankly, there is a huge homeless issue here and across the country with young teens," said Mark Krill, Board of Directors at BB&T Bank.
400 people, ages 12 to 21, rely on the Covenant House every year. Programs teach teens to be independent, how to get a job, further their education, parental guidance and managing their finances.
The kind of guidance that has given Brittany new hope, determination and a smile, "I want to be able to remain stable, transition to a place of my own, continue school and get my associates and progress from there."
These aren't all runaway cases. Family disputes seem to be what land teenagers out on the street in the first place; both Brittney and David's families couldn't care for them.