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Plight of Homeless Youth Will be Focus of Nov. 20 Times Square Vigil
Date:11/12/2008

NEW YORK, Nov. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Covenant House International is releasing its First Annual Report Card on the US Homeless Youth Crisis, and gives a bleak outlook for their future. America's kids in crisis will be the focus of the 18th Annual Candlelight Vigil for Homeless Youth on Thursday, November, 20, 5:30 pm, in Times Square.

"Over 750,000 young people in the US are living and dying on our streets every year. We were able to help 70,387 homeless youth last year, 7% more than the year before, but this is still not enough, more needs to be done by all of us," explains James White, interim president and chief operating officer for Covenant House International, the largest privately funded agency in the Americas helping homeless kids.

"Our First Annual Report Card on the US Homeless Youth Crisis finds that the number of homeless and impoverished youth is growing and their outlook is bleak," says White. The report card examines 11 key indicators affecting children, including: population growth, poverty rates, employment opportunities, high school drop-out rates, health coverage, dental health, the foster care system, juvenile justice, arrests, substance use and death rates.

"18- to 24-year-olds make up the highest percentage of individuals living in poverty and they are twice as likely to be unemployed. Many of these kids are aging out of foster care at rates 30% higher than we typically see," says White adding, "One-third of the homeless kids helped by Covenant House come directly from foster care. The rest come from environments of abuse, neglect and other at-risk situations."

According to information gathered by Covenant House, once a kid becomes homeless, that youth is at a much greater risk for becoming incarcerated. The number of recent arrests of 18- to 24-year-olds has increased for prostitution (17%), drug violations (19%), weapons charges (25%) and vagrancy (28%). These kids also are at much greater risk for premature death by homicide or suicide. 5,000 homeless youth die from assault, illness and suicide each year.

"We want people to be outraged by this bleak situation. We want them and our nation's leaders to change this situation. It can be done. At Covenant House we've been changing the lives of homeless kids for 35 years by giving them guidance, transitional housing, healthcare, education and job training. Many of our kids go from the streets to college. They are good kids who have had some rough breaks in life and now just need a chance to help themselves," says White.

Homeless youth being helped by Covenant House will be telling their stories and performing with Broadway stars at the 18th Annual Candlelight Vigil for Homeless Youth on Thursday, November, 20, 5:30 pm, in Times Square. Additional vigils will be held at other Covenant House sites, churches, colleges and via the Virtual Candlelight Vigil Web site: http://www.igniteadream.org.

The Times Square Vigil will be hosted by Sunny Cummings Hostin, CNN Legal Analyst & Managing Director at Kroll Inc., a private investigation and security firm. The vigil also will feature: Jim White, Bruce Henry, executive director of Covenant House Institute, and Broadway stars Lawrence Clayton (Bells Are Ringing, It Ain't Nothin but the Blues, The Civil War, Once upon a Mattress, High Rollers Social Pleasure Club, and Dreamgirls) and Capathia Jenkins (Fame Becomes Me, Look of Love, Caroline or Change, and Civil War).

Nasdaq and Reuters will air vigil graphics while ABC will air the vigil live on their Times Square jumbotrons during the event. MTV and Invision will create a live Internet feed for the vigil.

Founded in 1972, Covenant House International is the largest privately funded agency in the Americas helping homeless kids, providing 24/7 crisis care and ongoing support at 21 facilities, NINELINE (1-800-999-9999) and http://www.covenanthouse.org.


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SOURCE Covenant House International
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