If the homeless are invisible, homeless youth are doubly so. They are our teenage sons and daughters who sleep on the street or on friends’ couches-vulnerable to predators, with only other homeless kids to turn to.

It’s an experience that is painfully unique for each child, and yet the common threads of suffering, of loneliness, of trauma and abuse emerge in their stories time and again. They talk of facilities and group homes that employ coercive therapies, violence and isolation to break their spirits. 

As they search for their place in the world, some struggle with addiction, mental health problems and a barrage of other complex, inter-connected issues, the roots of which can often be traced back to being abused, abandoned, rejected by those charged with loving and caring for them. 

Bryant walked from Texas to Utah in hope of a college education. “You realize after you go homeless that the world is a different place,” he says.

While the Beehive State may be renowned for its generosity of spirit when it comes to giving to causes, homeless kids say they are treated with suspicion in Utah. Homeless youth are looked at as “delinquents,” says Bam, who hails from Texas. “People give you that look like they want to be nice to you. They ask, ‘How you doing?’ In reality, they don’t want nothing to do with you.” 

How can we support them in their journey if we don’t even see them as they wander our streets?

These photos and words encourage us to see them for who they are and for how they see themselves--as human beings who ask for nothing but the recognition of their right to strive for happiness, health, a home and laughter. “All we basically do is try to be normal people, to do the best that we can,” Bam says.

Words by Stephen Dark.