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Oakland DreamCatcher Homeless Shelter For Teenagers Slated To Close As Landlord Seeks To Sell Property

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- The only place in Alameda County where homeless teenagers can find a bed to sleep at night is on the verge of closing if something doesn't change fast.

DreamCatcher is the name of the home tucked in a cul-de-sac in downtown Oakland beneath Interstate 880.

It is a haven for homeless teens like Elijah Taylor, who has a number of heartbreaking stories to tell. "[My stepfather] always used to say, like, 'I can't wait until you turn 18 so you can get the hell out of my house.' Then my mom always used to say, 'I wish I would've aborted you.' She just used to say so much hurtful stuff to me," said Elijah.

For six years, Elijah said his stepfather forced him to sleep under a blanket in the hallway of his home, even though he had a bed. Then two months ago - right before high school graduation - Elijah's stepfather kicked him out.

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I slept in one of the parks for a night and it was so scary," he said. "I was scared to go to sleep because I didn't know if somebody would, like, to try to hurt me or anything."

A friend fed Elijah and brought him to Dreamcatcher. "Here in Alameda County, we estimate that we have 2,000 homeless kids and only 8 beds for young people ages 13-18," said Dreamcatcher staffer Sean Sullivan.

Just eight beds for 2,000 homeless children in the county. Other cities like San Francisco and Chicago have hundreds of bed for their population. There are an estimated 1.5 million people who live in Alameda County.

The teens who come to DreamCatcher - 700 so far this year - are often escaping abuse

They've been abused in group homes. They have family who are dealing with poverty, which makes it very hard to hold onto housing, some have been forced into prostitution. Others have been abandoned by drug-addicted parents. And the prospect of spending nights in shelters with the chronically homeless is frightening.

So on a shoestring budget, DreamCatcher gives the teens the simple things: food, beds, a place to check Facebook and do laundry.

The teens who live here could be homeless again, as soon as the next few weeks. The man who owns the Dreamcatcher home is struggling to pay his bills and needs to sell the property.

"We really need this money in the next couple of weeks or the landlord is forced to sell the building," said Sullivan.

Without these beds, workers say the teens who need them will fall through the cracks - turned away from adult shelters where minors legally are not allowed.

Elijah graduated from high school in June. He's already started his own landscaping business and wants to get into carpentry next, a dream that he worries won't survive without DreamCatcher.

"I came here with nothing and, like, ever since I've been here, I've accomplished a lot of stuff that I didn't have at home."

Editor's Note: Donation checks should be sent to DreamCatcher at 2325 Clement Ave, Suite A, Alameda CA 94501.

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