The addict extended her hand. There were two $1 bills, enough for bus fare to a shelter for homeless teens.
“Call me when you get there,” she said.
That runaway, Angela, will be just one of dozens of young runaways and throwaways welcoming generous visitors to Covenant House Texas Saturday. With luck, hundreds of Houstonians will drop by the campus at 1111 Lovett bearing clothing, toiletries, bus cards, gift cards or baby items as a part of a national daylong event called “Do 1 Thing.”
Words help to explain the plight of the homeless teens, but Najlah Feanny Hicks, one of the masterminds of the project, believes photographs are more powerful still.
That’s why she’s enlisted the help of award-winning photojournalists to show the faces of teens at sites all over the country. Houston photographers include Smiley N. Pool of the Houston Chronicle and Dave Einsel, Robert Seale and Todd Spoth.
All day Saturday, their photos will be streaming online at www.do1thing.org.
Angela, now 20, her friend Corderro and other young people from Houston should be easy to find on the Web site.
Corderro, 19, wants to be an actor, a pastry chef and a restaurateur. For the moment, though, he’s busing tables and making plans to enroll at Houston Community College.
If he seems an unlikely resident of Covenant House, he is not. “I used to run away when things didn’t go right,” Corderro said.
Hicks, a New York-based photographer who has donated hundreds of hours of her own time to the project, said that today, Valentine’s Day, 1.3 million young people are living on the streets or in shelters.
“We’re going to spend billions of dollars telling each other how much we care,” Hicks said. “Why not do one thing for someone, a young person, less fortunate than ourselves?”
Do 1 Thing is Hicks’ third campaign to help disadvantaged children through photography.
In 2005, she and a colleague enlisted the help of photographers to showcase several hundred foster children in New Jersey. Over time, 160 of those kids were adopted.
In 2007, Hicks organized a photography exhibit featuring 100 older children who faced the prospect of living in foster homes, group homes or shelters until they reached the age of maturity.
Every year, Hicks says, that happens to 25,000 young adults nationwide, and thousands of them wind up on the streets.
Do 1 Thing, she hopes, will get the public involved with young people like Angela and Corderro.
In his small dorm room at Covenant House, Corderro keeps pictures of his siblings, books by Donald Trump and President Barack Obama, and a pencil sketch of the president.
Corderro looks like a smaller, younger Obama, and Corderro, like Obama, was raised by his mom.
“I wish I could talk to him,” Corderro said wistfully. “I’d ask him for advice.”
In Angela’s dorm room are scrapbooks, photos of her little sister, and life-size plastic heads with lots of hair.
In just a few weeks, Angela is going to start working on her beautician’s license, and one day she hopes to own her own beauty shop.
Her short life has been tough so far. But when she walks out of Covenant House, Angela sees downtown, skyscrapers and opportunities.
What’s important, she says, is not where you’ve been, but where you’re going.
To view the chron.com photo gallery click here