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Authorities offering help not hassles to homeless young people

Homeless children, teens and young adults are a rising concern for police and social workers in Hamilton County.

Lighthouse Youth Services CEO Bob Mecum says homeless kids used to mainly be unhappy runaways.

"Today we're seeing kids who are, for the most part, long-term victims of poverty, long-term victims of neglect, and physical and sexual abuse," says Mecum.

Addiction is another major problem. Mecum says heroin use today is unprecedented and often passed down to children by their parents.

"We haven't seen the issue of heroin addiction in this town anywhere near to this extent even back in the 60's when heroin addiction seemed to be at its peak. We think its coming to even more young people and families."

Mecum says homeless children also are very susceptible to sex traffickers, especially LGBTQ teens.

Cincinnati Police are going after child sex traffickers. They're also helping homeless young adults find professional clothing for job interviews so they can afford to find permanent housing.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office is trying to reach as many youth as it can through specialized training for jail deputies. Sheriff Jim Neil says, "These are the young men and women that will also some day in the future be working as patrol deputies out in the streets and when they come across youth in crisis they have  information that they can act on. They have referral services that they can get these youth into."

Yearly, Lighthouse estimates there are 1,700 - 2,000 homeless kids in Hamilton County. If you include those who bounce between friends and family, so-called 'couch surfers,' the numbers increase to 2,500 - 3,000.