As I was walking in Harvard Square the other day, I noticed a young girl who was homeless. I had seen her many many times before, but, for whatever reason, on this day I really saw her. She couldn’t have been more than 14, maybe 15.

Of course, she asked me if I had any change, which I didn’t. I was on my way to the bank. Once I handled my business there, I made my way back to where she was and handed her a couple of bucks, in response to which she and a young boy, who was probably her boyfriend, smiled and said thank you.

The father in me kicked in and I wished I could take them home and keep them safe. I don’t think I will ever understand youth homelessness and, mind you, I’m not talking about homeless family folks but unaccompanied minors like the two kids I saw in the square.

It’s not just there or in the Pit that you see these kids. Take a walk down Tremont Street in Boston, stop in the Burger King there and you’ll notice them sitting at empty tables trying to keep warm in one of the few establishments that doesn’t chase them away. Go down Copley Square, Back Bay Station or Davis Square in Somerville. Everywhere.

It’s heartrendingly sad to see these children and, make no mistake, they are children. They should be riding bikes, thinking about school proms, cheerleading, getting ready for high school in the fall. Not panhandling, huddling in doorways, shooting dope and popping pills to numb the pain of having sex with someone just so they can get a warm meal and a place to stay.

Sounds grim, doesn’t it? Imagine how they feel. And where are their parents? Back in the day, if you ran away from home, your parents scoured the streets looking for you; these days, many parents post a picture of their child in a store window and hope for the best. Too scared to leave their quiet little suburban nest or too uninterested to search for their kid. Think I’m kidding? I wish. I can tell you stories of parents who were relieved when their troubled child ran away. Other kids run away from abusive situations at home, age out of foster care or are tossed away because their parents can’t deal with their LGBT orientation, which makes up 40 percent of homeless youth.

Most of these kids can’t or won’t go into a shelter. As a former shelter guest, I understand. The lack of services is appalling and don’t even get me started about the kids that simply age out of foster care.
Will things change? Who knows. I know a woman who ended up on the streets at 17. When I ran into her a couple of years ago, she was still on the streets and was now 34. For all you parents out there, the next time you’re walking down the street and you see one of these kids, think about this being one of your own kids, and you’ll come to the same conclusion that I did that day in the square: too young.






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