Homeless teen population grows in St. Johns County

Program helps teens with food stamps, transportation, educational services

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - The number of homeless people is increasing in St. Johns County, but it may not be who you think it is.

The fastest growing population of homeless people are teenagers who say they don't have a place to stay.

"I had an altercation with my step-dad, but I couldn't just stay there anymore because it would've been bad on me and bad on my little sisters," said Marcos, a St. Augustine High School student.

Marcos didn't want his identity revealed but sat down with Channel 4 to talk about his situation as a homeless teenager. Marcos said his situation at home forced him to leave and live on the streets.

"Where did you do things, like take a shower and brush your teeth?" asked Channel 4's Adrienne Moore.

"I didn't a lot, like I would go over to a friend's house sometimes," said Marcos.

On cold nights, Marcos said he found shelter at Flagler College.

"I used to always stay inside Flagler because they wouldn't," said Marcos. "I would just walk in there and go to sleep in there, because they'd always have a TV in there."

Chris Stone, Homeless Liaison for St. Johns County School District, said the homeless population amongst teenagers is a growing problem.

"It's a growing issue as of last year, we finished up last year with 584 students who met the definition of homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act," said Stone.

Stone works with the student services Assist program within St. Johns County School District. He explained that since the McKinney-Vento Homeless Act in 2002, every public school district in the country has to provide homeless or displaced students with food stamps, transportation and other social and educational services.

Marcos said he uses those services every day.

"They had given me a backpack full of toothpaste, deodorant and body wash, and all of that," said Marcos. "I thought it was pretty nice."

Currently. Marcos said he sleeps on the floor at a friend's house, but he knows he is not alone. Marcos wants his story told to highlight the need for more funding and programs, so that teenagers like him have a chance to fulfill their dreams.

"I just don't want to be the person always on the street, putting myself in positions like drug dealing," said Marcos, "I just don't want to be like that."

Click here to learn more about the ASSIST program.

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