In her early 20s, Lauri Burns used to work Orange County's mean streets as a prostitute.
That was in the 1980s, and as of today Burns has not only totally turned her life around but those of 30 young females she has taken off the streets as a foster mom and countless others through her Teen Project shelters.
The Mission Viejo woman's do-gooding is recognized in this month's People magazine, which begins it's profile with then-23-year-old Burns shooting up alone and ready to die in a Santa Ana motel room.
She had grown up in a physically abusive home on New York's Long Island, shoplifted and taken drugs by the time she hit her teens, spent some time in a mental institution, gotten pregnant at 19 and left her baby daughter Summer with friends
for weeks at a time.
Catching a glimpse of herself in a mirror that Santa Ana night in '86–“My hair was all over. I had blood dripping down my arms. It was
the most horrible feeling.”–and a near-fatal beating she took at the
hands of her john months earlier, were enough to scare Burns straight.
She got clean for good through rehab, enrolled in a trade school and parlayed a knack for math into a successful computer programming gig with Northrop Grumman.
Burns began taking in girls in 1998, according to People's hear-hear piece, which goes on to detail how nine years later she founded her nonprofit Teen Project, which provides counseling, life-skills education and
"old-fashioned mothering” to girls who leave foster
care at 18.
Some young women live in a five-bedroom shelter near the home of the now-married 49-year-old, who recently opened a second facility in Venice.
Now-29-year-old Summer, a Columbia University graduate and social
worker, is about to get married, and as Burns sums it up for People, "I wouldn't trade my life for anyone's.”