MESQUITE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Homelessness is no longer just a big city concern. The crisis is also affecting the suburbs, with a growing number of homeless young people.
"Sleeping under bridges and in youth centers," says Andrew Morris of the Raising the Bridge, a Mesquite non-profit organization. "It's a big problem right now. I really understand what's going on because I was there.
Morris does not mince words about his terrible childhood. He said that when he was a baby, he was abused and badly burned by his biological mother. He was placed in foster care and adopted, but when his adoptive father died, his father's widow forced him out.
"When I first visited the street, I was 16 years old and I had a garbage bag in hand in Pleasant Grove to try to figure out where I'm going," Morris recalls. He says he's committed to turning pain into a goal. He is working on the construction of a youth center for homeless teens in Mesquite and says that even in suburban cities, needs are dire.
"We have more than a thousand homeless teenagers struggling, who are surfing on a couch, sleeping under bridges," says Morris, adding, "I have a lot of sleepless nights. I am constantly thinking of our youth. "
Right now, his "field of dreams" to fight the homeless nightmare is a five-acre wooded lot on the outskirts of the city. He sees it in a one-stop shop for kids with no other place to go.
"They can pick up food and clothes, they can wash their clothes," says Morris, while giving them access to medical and dental care. "All the skills of life they need."
Mesquite Councilor Bruce Archer said: "Nothing is done by the city, it is not an option.
"We can not just hope it disappears," says Archer. "We must take up this challenge."
He says the youth center is a natural next step to bring together a series of charitable activities already underway in the city – like the Raising the Bridge Community Garden – under one roof.
"This opportunity that Andrew and Raising the Bridge offer will be a place for those who are not accepted or who have no place to go," says Archer. "Integrate, be loved, accepted, mentored and coached, do great things with their future and be a blessing for Mesquite in the long run."
Morris too often says that teens without adequate family support flounder and grow without the basic skills needed to succeed.
"I want to change this situation for them. Break the cycle, "he says.