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Group hopes initiative will help combat homelessness in Tampa Bay

There are 7000 homeless youth in Tampa Bay.

TAMPA, Fla. — There are 7,000 young people in Tampa Bay who have nowhere to go at night, they are homeless. A local organization is hoping to bring some attention to this very real problem with a display on the lawn of Ulele in Tampa and a proclamation from the mayor. 

Vicki Sokolik is the founder and executive director of Starting Right, Now. This nonprofit organization offers transitional housing and other resources to these kids as long as they make a commitment to stay in school. Once they graduate, they can choose the military or vocational school or even higher education. 

Sokolik has seen this program change lives. "This is actually a national invisible epidemic. The kids do not want to be found because they're so afraid that their parents will get into trouble and they'll end up in foster care. So they actually hide. So for us to be able to find them and help them end their plight of homelessness changes the entire trajectory of their life."

There is a ceremony at 1:30 today on the lawn of Ulele. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor will be there with Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman to program today: Starting Right, Now End Youth Homeless Day. 

A new local podcast will also be made available starting today called "Raising Me." It will feature a student who's been through homelessness telling their own story and explaining how others could have noticed or helped sooner. 

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