By Farrah Fazal
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Another night on the streets. Another night in danger. That's what hundreds of local children are facing on the streets of St. Louis.
Advocates for homeless teenagers said six times more homeless children are on the streets now than a few years ago.
"When the economy collapsed our calls shot up tremendously," said Dwayne Lewis, director of Stepping Stones, a program under Every Child's Hope agency.
He said there are fewer dollars to help agencies like his save homeless and at risk children.
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"When you're punching me in the face, pulling my hair, calling me all type of names, that's not a whooping," said Gabby Treadway.
She spent so many of her 18 years living in heartbreak.
"There are friends at school I talked to, they would see my bruises on me, and they want to speak up and say something," Treadway said. "They were scared and afraid of my mom. Some of them met my mom and said oh no! We're not going tell on her because we are afraid of her."
She left state custody for the last time in May when she turned 18. She'd been to four foster homes and a residential treatment before she got the pass to be on her own. She also realized she had nowhere to go. She found friends and strangers.
"I was sleeping on their couch. I didn't really get any sleep because I was worried somebody was going to touch me or whatever. That was pretty scary," she said.
Treadway is the face of homelessness. Thousands of teens just like her are living on the streets.
"These are kids society has thrown away, parents have thrown away, these really are the throwaway kids," said Lewis.
Another worker at Every Child's Hope, Debora Lake, said children often find her agency. They come to them through Facebook or Google searches on teen shelters.
Two outreach workers from another agency for teens in St. Louis, Covenant House, went to Treadway's school and found her. She would still be "sleeping on somebody's couch right now" if they hadn't found her she said. She knows many more kids like her have no place to go.
"Never give up," said Treadway.
St. Louis County Youth Connection Helpline
Phone: 314-628-2929 or 877-928-2929
Text: "4HLP" to 31658