Feature Articles

Kid Row: Hanging with Baltimore's homeless youth--from the squat to the shelter

For this photo essay on the lives of homeless youth, I followed a handful of young people, aged 17 to 22, to see how they navigated life on the streets and in the shelters. I visited so-called “abandos,” abandoned or vacant rowhomes where the only heat was the lit burner on the stove and the only source of light was a bare bulb in the front room. Many of the young people I spoke to had jobs, cellphones, and were drug-free but paying rent was impossible with their low-wage work. Jody Mays Jr., a 20-year-old living in a City Steps subsidized apartment, works two internships, and “Sugar,” who did not want to use her full name, is a 21-year-old who works at a shop at the Inner Harbor. Programs exist to help these homeless youth: City Steps, Organization of Hope, Belvedere Assisted Living, and Health Care for the Homeless, among others. But resources are limited and the housing crisis persists. The number of young people living on the streets or in unstable housing doubled between 2008 and 2013, according to Baltimore City Schools' most recent count. During the 2012-2013 school year, BCPS reported that 2,716 homeless youth attended its schools. This number, of course, doesn't reflect the young people who were not even enrolled in school due to their unstable living situations or because they are already on the cusp of adulthood at 18, 19, or 20 years old. These older teens and younger adults often fall into an in-between, catch-22 world when it comes to shelter and services. Mays Jr., who has a shelter apartment, turns 21 this month and will be “aged out” of his subsidized room. On Nov. 15, the West Baltimore shelter home where Sugar lives with eight other kids between 16 and 20 is shutting down. They will be back out on the street. Check out our video interview with homeless youth Jody Mays Jr. here

Photo and Text by J. M. Giordano
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