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Rally highlights plight of homeless children, young adults

  • Participants in the Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) Dream Walk gather in Old Courthouse Square to raise awareness about youth homelessness in Santa Rosa, Calif., on December 6, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Close to 200 people gathered in downtown Santa Rosa Friday night in the chill and rain to highlight the plight of homeless children and young adults in Sonoma County.

Organizers of the Social Advocates for Youth Dream Walk said the event was meant to give voice to homeless young people, whose numbers in the county are more than six times the gathering in Old Courthouse Square.

"If they don't have a place to sleep that's safe and stable, an education and self-esteem, then they can't dream," Cat Cvengros, SAY's director of development said of kids and young adults who are on the street.

Social Advocates For Youth Dream Walk

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Following the event in the square, the crowd, made up largely of supporters and volunteers of the social service agency, walked a few blocks around the downtown holding green LED candles.

Participants went into Third Street Cinemas to watch a short video featuring Sonoma County homeless youth.

While they chose Friday to come out in the crummy weather "some people don't have a choice ... sometimes through no fault of their own," Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm told the crowd huddled under umbrellas.

They heard from a number of speakers, including Kerry Rego, a woman who was homeless in the 1990s at the age of 16 on the streets of Santa Rosa.

"If SAY hadn't been there for me and showed me what safety looks like, I don't know where I would be," said Rego, who remembers spending two days at the emergency teen shelter.

After staying in a garage with no heat or electricity, the shelter was "heaven," she said.

She said she is now a motivational speaker and author. But Rego held back tears as she spoke of a young man she spent time with on the streets who died at the age of 22 after spending half his life homeless.


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