MESQUITE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Homelessness is no longer just a big city concern. The crisis is also reaching into the suburbs, with the numbers of youth experiencing homelessness on the rise.
“Sleeping under bridges, and in youth shelters,” says Andrew Morris of the Mesquite nonprofit, Raising the Bridge. “It’s a big deal going on right now. I really understand what’s going on, because I was there.”
Morris doesn’t mince words about his awful childhood. He said as a baby, he was abused and severely burned by his biological mother. He was placed into foster care and adopted, but when his adoptive father died, his father’s widow forced him out.
“First time I was on the street, I was 16-years-old, had a trash bag in my hand in Pleasant Grove, trying to figure out where I’m a gonna go,” recalls Morris. He says he is determined to turn into pain into purpose. He’s working to build a drop in youth center for teens experiencing homelessness in Mesquite and he says that even in suburban cities, the need is great.
“We have over a thousand homeless teens that are struggling, couch surfing, sleeping under bridges,” says Morris, adding, “I have a lot of sleepless nights. I’m constantly thinking about our youth.”
Right now, his “field of dreams” to combat the nightmare of homelessness is a wooded five-acre tract on the outskirts of town. He sees it at a one-stop shop for kids with no place else to go.
“They can come and get food, clothing, they can wash their clothes,” says Morris, along with providing access to medical and dental care. “All kinds of life skills that they need.”
Mesquite City Councilman Bruce Archer is on board, saying for the city to do nothing is not an option.
“We can no longer just hope it goes away,” says Archer. “We have to engage this challenge.”
He says the youth center is a natural next step to bring a variety of charitable efforts already underway in the city– like Raising the Bridge’s community garden–under one roof.
“This opportunity that Andrew and Raising the Bridge is offering will be a place for those that aren’t accepted, or don’t have a place to go, to go,” says Archer. “Fit in, be loved and accepted and mentored and coached and do great things with their future and be a blessing to Mesquite, long term.”
Morris says too often teens without adequate family support flounder and grow up without the life skills needed to be successful.
“I want to change that situation for them. Break the cycle,” he says.