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How an outreach team helps homeless youth in Tucson

Posted at 9:58 PM, Feb 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-01 23:58:51-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- It's hard not to miss the bright orange shirts on 4th Avenue.

Karl Blade is with the Street Outreach Team with Our Family Services. Armed with water, food and hygiene items, Blade and other case managers help fill a void for homeless youth in Tucson. 

A few times a week the team walks through various parts of Tucson where homeless teens hang out. On this particular Wednesday, Blade headed to 4th Avenue and the downtown area. On a typical day he may meet about 25 homeless kids.

"A lot of the kids -- their parents are going through issues,," Blade said. "Some cases they have to get kicked out."
One of those kids was Billie Jo Underwood. After a life of foster care, drug addiction and group homes, Underwood ended up living on the streets of Tucson for a few years. 
"I slept in the Santa Cruz wash, down by the Carl's Jr., then there was the tunnels under 4th Avenue by the train tracks," Underwood said. 
"You don't know if you're going to wake up to an animal in your face, you don't know if you're going to wake up to somebody going through your camp," Underwood said. 
Underwood is now 23-years-old, is sober and working towards a GED thanks to the help of the housing program with Our Family Services. 
"Don't give up on the people that are trying to give you help in the beginning," Underwood said. 
"The number one reason for us doing outreach is just getting the word out, letting kids know that there are services like Our Family Services that can help them," Blade said. 
According to a local group Youth On Their Own, in 2013 there were an estimated 5,600 homeless students in Pima County. 
Our Family Services partners with other agencies in Tucson, and helps provide basics like housing, food and other services
Here is a link if you'd like to donate.