Monday, November 19, 2012

The Diary of a Temporarily Homeless St. Louis Prosecutor

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Editor's note: Last week St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce joined other community leaders in sleeping outside to raise awareness for teen homelessness. Riverfront Times asked Joyce to chronicle her experience that night. This is her story, in her words.

click to enlarge St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce keeps warm in her "Elmer Fudd" hat.
  • St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce keeps warm in her "Elmer Fudd" hat.

It was a 90-degree day two months ago when Covenant House of Missouri invited my husband, Kevin, and me to sleep outside on November 15 to raise awareness for teen homelessness. In considering the strange request, I reviewed a YouTube video documenting last year's CEO Sleep Out in the Big Apple.

To me, the most striking part of that clip was not the Wall Street executives and city leaders who volunteered to sleep outside on the streets of New York. It was the shocked and surprised reaction of the teenagers who were so visibly moved that these CEOs thought about them at all, let alone were willing to sleep outside on their behalf. After watching the video once, Kevin and I were in.

Although they are largely invisible to society in general, homeless teens are inescapable to those of us who work in the criminal justice system. Too many families have profoundly neglected and abused children. Every day these kids end up as crime victims and even as criminals themselves. As a prosecutor, I'm often put into contact with these teens after something bad has happened, so I was eager to have an opportunity to work on the proactive side of this problem.

Here, then, is my diary from this past Thursday -- the night I experienced firsthand some of the obstacles they face each and every day.

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