SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A new texting program will aim to help homeless teens find shelter in the greater San Francisco area. An estimated 1.37 million or 39% of the total homeless population are children under the age of 18.

Claudia Asprer, founder and president of the Movin’ On Up program in the Bay Area, and Lauri Burns, President of The Teen Project, have joined forces to reach teens through technology.

By texting the words SHELTER and the ZIP code to 99000, teens can receive the listing of a local shelter in the greater San Francisco area within 40 seconds.

KCBS’ Connie C. Kim talks to Claudia Asprer, founder and president of the Movin’ On Up program, and Lauri Burns, President of The Teen Project:

The Teen Project has done the research to show that even homeless youth obtain Internet access through free library access, or own cell phones even when they are homeless. The site currently has 17,000 shelter listings. The goal is 100,000 by the end of the year.

Burns has not only been serving as a foster parent to troubled teens for the past 13 years but was a homeless teen herself. As an abused child, she entered the foster system at the age of 13 but when she aged out of the system at 18, she had nowhere to go.

One night, she was almost killed by 2 gunmen when one stranger saved her. “I believe my life is on borrowed time to save those others that are left behind from abuse and homelessness,” Burns said.

Now, Burns owns a computer consulting firm and is a computer network engineer. She is also an international inspirational speaker, foster mother and the founder of The Teen Project. The purpose of creating this nonprofit was to give these kids left out on the streets an “equal chance at life.” The Teen Project has set up hundreds of shelters throughout the United States.

Claudia Asprer has been a foster parent for the last 15 years in Marin County to over 80 young people. She founded the Movin’ On Up program to help youth ages 16-25 that have aged out of the foster care system gain resources they need to become successful.

Asprer added, when you give them an opportunity and treat them with respect, they take off running.

When talking about reaching out to these teens, Burns said the teens “almost don’t believe someone would care about them because they’ve had so many downfalls in life.”

“It’s easy to look at statistics and dehumanize the whole thing,” Burns said, “but when you actually meet the kids that are so desperate for any kind of help and so grateful for anything you give them, it’s hard to ever stop doing this.”

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(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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