6,000 to 7,000 youth on are the streets of Los Angeles every single night.
Far too often, our adolescents’ voices are not heard by those who are supposed to be their supporters. Their dreams are disregarded and they’re not able to be who they truly are. Tragically, youth are physically, psychologically, or sexually abused or neglected entirely through no fault of their own. Understandably, these young people often end up feeling physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually abandoned. The sadness and despair manifests either inwardly as depression and hopelessness or outwardly as anger and even rage. They may become homeless, involved in the criminal justice system, and/or addicted to an array of substances and lifestyles. These are not throwaway kids. They are broken-hearted because nobody believed in them or gave them the unconditional love they needed.
Miguel Padilla's life is one example of the tragedy so many of our adolescents face today. Miguel was abandoned by his mother at a young age, neglected by his father, and suffered two horrific accidents in his lifetime which caused him to lose his right arm below the elbow and the sight in his left eye. Miguel was continuously teased by his peers for his disabilities and left isolated at school.
After being abandoned by his mother, Miguel was left in the care of his father who abused him and finally left him with his elderly grandmother who was not able to care for him. Miguel was then placed in Los Angeles County's child welfare system and lastly in the juvenile justice system due to behavioral issues.
While the 17-year-old was living in his final placement - a structured, therapeutic setting with sprawling grounds, Miguel ventured into the orchard, climbed into a tree with his one arm, and hung himself with a noose he had made. His body was found nine days later by staff.
Miguel's life magnifies the plight of so many of our youth today living in an environment where they do not receive the love and support they need, stripping our children of any sense of self-esteem and self-worth. In an interview with a social worker, Miguel professed, "I have a heart, I care about people." Miguel's voice cries out to be heard.
Miguel's life and the lives of all of our disenfranchised, lost and forgotten adolescents inspire the voice of L.O.V.E. Foundation and our team of Love Warriors to provide the caring, warmth and support needed so desperately by so many youth who become homeless, incarcerated, or entrenched in the foster care system.