Stories of young people on the streets


CHERRY HILL — Here at Tir Na Nog restaurant on Jan. 10, Mandi Cruz shared heartbreaking stories.

Of the boy who, when he turned 16, was signed out of school for good by his father, and introduced to heroin.

Of the young girl who, at the age of 9, became a prostitute.

Both of these troubled and homeless youth, and their peers, have brought their lives and stories to Covenant House, where Cruz is currently service manager in its Camden location.

With another site in Atlantic City, Covenant House aids homeless youth and “provides a place where they can thrive,” Cruz said, providing a safe and secure home with food and clothing; job and life skills training; and therapy.

In these faces she encounters, whether in the home or during street outreach, she added, she sees “the face of God,” recognizing their inherent dignity and value as God’s children.

Cruz was the featured speaker for this month’s Theology on Tap program, which brings together young adults in faith and fellowship.

Greg Coogan, director of Young Adult Ministry, called Cruz’ visit “a reminder for the young church to take a look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized, and the necessity of encountering and walking with them” along their journey, as Jesus does.