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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Spotlight

The Teen Project Helps Homeless

In the United States, there are twenty-five thousand teens that exit the system each year to homelessness.

In the United States, there are twenty-five thousand teens that exit the system each year to homelessness.

“When other teenagers are celebrating their 18th birthday in limos and having a party, these kids are being tossed out of their houses,” said Lauri Burns, founder and executive director at the “Teen Project”; a program she found back in 2008.
 She knows first hand, what it feels to live on the streets. Born in New York City, she lived in an abusive household and ended up in juvenile halls and foster care as a teenager.

At age 18, Lauri was released from the system and became pregnant. By the age of 19, with no money and no home to go back to, she began to work as a prostitute.

On a cold winter night, when she was only 23, she was beaten to death by the hands of two gunmen. She recalls that it was then, when she began to change her life; and now twenty years later, she provides housing, mentorship and a bright future to many teens that lived a similar life to Lauri’s troubled past. 

“I want them to know that they’re not defined by their past, their past is not who they are. They are who they are, and we will help them create a future they love.”

Lauri is now an IT director for a fortune 100 company. Yet, amidst her busy career manages group-homes in Orange County and LA.

All the funding for the “Teen Project” comes solely from community donors and sponsors.

There are over 60 volunteers who donate their time and services to what Lauri calls a new chance in life.
“Sky is the limit for all these kids and there should not be any kids out there who have to live on the streets—we are their parents and seeing them grow and have their own families later, it’s truly a blessing.”

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