It’s the heat of the summer and most families and people take advantage of the warmer temperatures to escape from their busy lives and go on a vacation. Some explore other parts of the world while others plan a staycation in their home state or city. At Sox Place we meet lots of travelers and train hoppers that have made the decisions to be land pirates as they travel the world by train, van, or by thumb. Here are some tips and tricks from some travelers that have come through at Sox Place.
Words and Photos by: Keala Reeverts
“Look after my girl, I don’t care if she ends up with someone else, I want her to be happy, but just make sure she’s okay.”
That night Clark promised that while his buddy was locked away he would keep an eye out for the 17 year old girlfriend the best he knew how. Some time passed and Clark had gotten word that she had been knocked up by a 26 year old heroin dealer who wasn’t ready to be a daddy, and the man had ended up taking a baseball bat to beat her.
Clark arrived at the hospital where he found police officials and the offender discussing the girl who lay helpless on her hospital bed. “Go home and don’t do it again,” said the officer to the dealer. Clark couldn’t believe his ears, how were they not doing anything to bring this guy to justice? It was his duty to take matters into his own hands, and keep his promise. Later, Clark broke into the heroine dealer’s house with a custom made 10 pound hatchet in hand, that later found itself in the side of the man’s head. He then proceeded to tape him from head to toe “mummifying him” where he was later found barely alive. Clark left the house with everything he could sell in order to help pay for the poor girls hospital bills.
Clark (although not his real name) is now 36 years old with a buzzed hair cut and an infectious broken smile that reaches all the way up to his eyes. Years ago he had run into Doyle when he was just 17 at Skyline Park, a couple years before Sox Place was an actual place and before he ever went to prison. Every fiber of his being urges to take care of those around him and he’s ended up serving a life sentence of trying to discover the difference between love and vengeance.
His first case had landed him in prison facing 198 years being charged with everything from aggravated armed robberies to violent crimes. Through a series of court dates and judges, Clark was released after just six years back onto the streets. The first time he was released from prison in 2005 he ran into what is now known as Sox Place. This is where his friendship with Doyle all began. However, he had no idea what that would mean to him so many years down the road.
Lounging on the graffiti covered skate ramp sitting in the corner of the warehouse that is Sox Place, his tattooed hands rest underneath his head as he stares up at the ceiling. Although it appears he is relaxing, Clark sports an ankle bracelet that he has plugged into the nearest outlet, awaiting for it to be fully charged which takes about fifteen minutes.
“When Sox first showed up downtown, the way he was dressed and being an older gentleman, we thought he was down here to kidnap us,” said Clark, “Hell, I was only 17 years old. And most of the kids down here were still younger than me. Once we realized that he was down here not to cause us harm, but to help us, I think that’s about the time that I felt like I could begin trusting him,” said Clark.
Originally he found himself thrust into street living in the summer of 88’ when his step-dad had beaten up his mother one night and Clark tried to kill him. For the same reason that he avenged his friends girlfriend. “To me, I was doing the right thing, my logic was, if you put your hands on her, then I will put my hands on you,” he said.
Where the world is dark and the justice system seems more like a threat than a source of protection, it’s common for street kids to take matters into their own hands. Helping someone usually means hurting someone else, even if it’s themselves. The lines between being a giving person and taking vengeance are blurred, and often times they mean the same thing. “I’ve done things that I do regret but, theres things that given the chance, I would do them again,” he said with a sigh, recalling scene by scene the time he got a ticket for stripping himself naked in order to give someone else dry clothes. “I’d rather help somebody else than myself. Some people tell me that’s what my downfall is, that I don’t try to take care of myself, I try to take care of everybody else first.”
It’s hard to know what a good person is, and what a giving man looks like when you’ve never seen one. Many struggle with not having someone real to look up to or learn from, forcing them to base it off pop culture or what the world tells them. That is, until they meet someone who is willing to show them.
Clark approached Doyle a little while ago asking about a drivers license. “I walked up to him and said ‘If I go find out what I have to do to get my license back…’ he didn’t even let me finish my sentence and Doyle said, ‘yeah let me know what I can do to help you get it back.’ That just shows me that there is good people and Sox and Jordan are how I want to be. I want to be where I can help people like they do. They’ve done so much for me, I want to do it for other people. I talked to Sox the other day when I stayed late and that was the first time I told him about what my uncle did to me. I saw in his face and his eyes how hurt that made him feel.”
Pain, he saw it in Doyle’s reaction just like he saw it all over his mothers face when he broke down at eight years old and told her about what had been going on. “After a couple months of my uncle shooting me up with meth and molesting me, he started bringing friends in. For two years I was passed around from him to his friends to their friends, the whole time I was high as a kite and didn’t know anything. I didn’t know what was going on or that it was wrong, and I didn’t know to tell anybody. As I got older I realized that it wasn’t right. I tried to kill him,” Clark spoke coldly about his uncle.
This resulted in a 30 year long drug addiction to meth and an open door to all the other drugs that he could get his hands on. To be introduced to a drug of that strength at such a young age steered the entire course of Clarks life. At one point he was holding down 15 hour day jobs in construction “I was doing that on drugs like normal people would drink a cup of coffee to go to work,” he said.
Clark has been a slave to drugs for almost all his life. Brothers gone. Sisters gone. Friends gone. Wife gone. They too were slaves, and they died at the hands of their master. Seventeen months clean, but back on the streets, Clark’s eyes are open to the destruction drugs like meth has caused in his circle of friends. Anger, frustration and a lack of hope plague his body like a disease.
“I see people I’ve grown up with and people I consider my family and the shape they’re in because they’re still doing drugs and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to see them that way, it makes me want to slap the shit out of them. In the middle of things Sox and Jordan are down here too. They don’t do this for money, they do it to help and that does make me feel a little bit better. There wasn’t shit like this when I was a kid. Now there’s a bunch of young kids here and they’re doing the same stupid shit we were doing, but the only difference now is that they’ve actually got someone down here trying to help them. And yet, they’re disrespectful,” Clark shakes his head that is covered by a black hat with a white superman symbol embroidered on the front.
Drugs and death run rampant among his friends and family, and he feels responsible for the lives of those that are close to him. One of the most devastating realities he has had to face is that no matter how much Clark puts himself last and his friends first, there’s a good chance that drugs will always win. Most of his life he’s dealt with conflict by fighting fire by throwing himself into the fire and sacrificing his happiness for those around him. Attempting to live like the superman symbol that runs across his hat stands for.
“I’ve made a name for myself down here for being the one who doesn’t care. If you do something wrong, you’re going to know. I’ve been talking to Doyle and what I’ve realized is that it’s not worth being like that anymore. Sox has helped me by sitting down and talking to me and helping me get clean and wanting to stay clean,” said Clark.
Clark has always been trying to do the right thing for the people in his life even if it’s not something that he knows how to do. He’s someone who has felt the backlash of trying to be a hero for the hurting. What he needs is a way out of the way that he’s always used as his way out. He needs hope. He is searching for what is means to be a man, and to be a hero without sending him to prison.
After years of people telling him he can’t be apart of something greater, he’s grown skeptical of the world. Even his relationship with Doyle has found itself hanging by a single thread at times. But it hasn’t ever deterred him from having a deep respect for Doyle and Jordan, instead it’s presented a model of what it looks like to be a giving man. He’s watched for years how Doyle and Jordan have helped so many others and for the first time Clark has someone that he can look to.
Being homeless is not about being lazy or relying on “the system.” Being homeless is not about being scummy, smelly, or dirty. Being homeless is more than just being without a house, because a home is more than a roof over your head. Being homeless is about survival. It prevents 1.7 million young people in the United States from dreaming, experiencing safety and love on a daily basis.
Often I sit down with Doyle in the morning at Sox Place discussing some of the kids that frequently attend, ideas about getting their stories out and God’s role in this ministry. When he recalls specific kids and their stories I can see the tapes rolling in his head as he visualizes past encounters. This time he’s referring to a time when his son Jordan was in grade school.
“The first homeless girl I knew was from Cedar Hill, Texas and went to second grade with Jordan,” Doyle said, “she would hide under the family car from her abusive dad.”
This is where Merriam Webster’s dictionary definition of a home as “One’s residence” doesn’t quite capture what a home really is. If home is just a residence, then being homelessness means being only without a residence, and after working with young adults for fourteen years, Doyle sees home, and homelessness as so much more than a dictionary definition.
“A home should be a residence where there is love, provision, protection, boundaries, correction and safety. There are many more homeless youth and young adults than just the ones who are recognized by our government and statistics in the physical sense.”
Ultimately being homeless is about you and me. It’s our community and those on the streets are our neighbors. So what does it take for you and me to step up and move to make a difference in our communities?
For me it was a one time missions trip to Denver’s Sox Place with a youth group I was involved with a few years back. It set a fire in my soul to make a difference for these kids.
Maybe you don’t know where to start, I urge you to make a trip down here! See and experience first hand what we do. Ask where you can help. This might be financially, physically, or spiritually. We are always praying for financial gifts to help keep our heat on and doors open. When groups or individuals pay us a visit and serve a meal, or donate socks, it means so much to us! Most of all we need to be on your prayer lists. Pray for us, but more importantly pray for our kids. Pray for their survival, pray that they might find freedom, refuge and peace.
As we think about our vote in the upcoming presidential election it brings to mind how we choose things and make decisions about who we serve and support. So my question is this: how would you vote for Sox Place? The snow and wind is coming to downtown Denver with our street youth out there in the cold! It is predicted to be a record snowfall this year and these kids need your help. Your vote for Sox Place and the hundreds we serve each week saves lives and provides support to the street youth like no other place in Denver.Will you vote for a hot meal, clothes, crisis intervention, and love for those that come every day to Sox Place? Will you vote to keep it open for those that need it most, like locals Danny, G, X, Anchors, Sunshine, Ashley, Marcus, little ones like Deliah, travelers like Scruffy, Scott, Toughy, and Kat? What is the value of Sox Place? It’s the value of the 150,000+ we’ve served in our 13 1/2 year existence!Right now we need to be able pay for December rent – $4300. God has always supplied through faithful generous people like you, giving to Sox Place. We need your generosity now! I’m asking for people to vote for Sox Place by donating to the mission in the next 2 weeks by providing funding for rent, meals and services to the youth. We pray for abundance to provide for these kids in this season! Thank you!
I met “Clutch” the beginning of October when the air was still warm and many travelers were making plans to get out of Denver before the air turned brisk and cold, much like how it is this morning as I write this post. He came off as tough, a little on edge, due to how the day was pan ning out, but incredibly intelligent and driven. He approached me when he noticed my camera sitting in my lap. We got to talking and he asked if I would take his photo so that he could send it to his family, and let them know he was okay. Of course I jumped at the chance and I began to ask him about his life story.
“I was born in South Carolina and then we moved to Rochester NY near Syracuse, and I lived there until I was 10 years old. But then my Grandfather passed away and we moved down to Florida: my Mom, Dad, two sisters and brother. I lived down there pretty much ever since 1998. My golden years were spent down there. Elementary school, Middle school, High school, well for the time that I was in High School,” he said.
Clutch eventually enrolled in online school and graduated early with a 4.0. Although society typically applauds students who can accomplish school early by labeling them “driven” and bound for success, Clutch believes that due to his early success, he found himself in more trouble.
“I wasn’t really too thrilled with school so I homeschooled myself and finished early. It’s both a curse and a blessing at the same time. I got done with school but I had so much time on my hands, I ended up just ripping and running the streets without any care. I’m kinda doing the same thing now, I’m just a little bit smarter,” he said with a laugh.
Having that much free time, he quickly found himself leading a life that eventually lead right to prison.
“I was put in a juvenile program when I was 17 and then got out a couple years after. But when I was 19 I went to prison for aggravated battery with a weapon for bodily harm and a strong arm robbery. I got set up basically” he said. “I was selling drugs, and there was a dude who wasn’t happy with my services. So he made up a bunch of lies to his wife’s brother who was a sheriff and he got me roped off. I was stupid, young and naive and I spoke too much when the police came to question me about it, I sealed my own fate. I was young and stupid. I’ll be 26 this month, so I’ve done a lot of growing up.”
Although he’s spent a good portion of his young adult life in the prison system, Clutch claims he tried to make the best of his time.
“I got my degree while I was in prison. I went to prison pretty young, I was 19 years old and got out when I was 23, and I tried to make the best of my time. People would get involved in politics and the negatives of prison. I just wanted to work in the kitchen, workout, eat and go to school. I made the best of it. Unfortunately studying horticulture turned out not to be really a lucrative career choice but it made me knowledgable, I’m sure I can use it in a couple different fields of work. Plus I can not just grow my food, but I can tend to livestock too. I can basically generate my own homestead if I wanted to. Plus since I lived in Florida I’ve had a lot of landscaping experience, so I can do all sorts of tree work and construction. I could pretty much build a house from the ground up.”
Although Clutch has had no serious felony trouble since 2010, when I had spoken with him he had just gotten out of jail after spending a month in Salida for driving on a revoked license and not going to court for the ticket, so his next step is to get back home to Florida.
“My whole family is out there…I’ll probably catch a train out of here with some friends or maybe by myself. I’m headed back that direction because that’s where I want to be. Well it’s not really where I want to be, but that’s where I need to be. Get my life back on track ya know, so I can come back out here. I originally came out to Colorado because I was cultivating marijuana and it was really cool and very profitable, kinda thought I’d be able to do it again when I came back out and it just backfired on me. I’m really starting from nothing right now,” he said.
Sox Place is a place where street kids, travelers and gutter punks can be “okay.” It’s a place where they can gather themselves after time in prison or even just a tough day out on the streets, and re-plan their strategy for life. Many times I have seen kids walk in knowing almost no one and be embraced by the community here as one of their own with little to no judgment. I haven’t seen Clutch since that warm October day, so I’m hoping he made it to Florida and has been reunited with his family.
Today our friends Harley and Wolf and their dog Scottie are leaving us after calling the streets of Denver their “home” for the last three years. They are leaving today to a knew home in Iowa, where they will finally be off the streets, working, and beginning a new life. All of us at Sox Place will keep you in our thoughts and prayers and pray for progression and an abundant life!
“I don’t know where I am at in my life, I work in the deli. I’m a sandwich slave, I sold my soul to capitalism. I tell myself that it’s worth it because I’m saving up for a hippy van and I want to continue my travels. There is a lot of places in the world I want to see, actually I made a list earlier today, but it’s not done. Yellow Stone National Park is first. I went there when I was a kid, my parents took me and my two sisters on a cross country trip and we stopped there and it was just really beautiful. I remember thinking that it was unreal, except I was seeing it with my eyes, so you know its real, but it’s just so majestic. I want to go back there, now that I am a photographer and I’m older and appreciate nature and natural beauty.”
Last Friday Sox Place was blessed by the presence of organizations, Favor’s Project and For the Love of Paws Rescue, who ended up making a difference in the lives of street kids and their pets. By the end of the day Twenty-two pets received vaccinations, deworming, and treatment for fleas and ticks and a check up provided by Veterinarian Dr. Jeff Barin. Dog baths were provided by Chuck and Don’s Pet store from Lakewood and there was additional help from DMK rehoming and The San Luis Valley Animal Welfare Society.
The teams of volunteers unpacked their vehicles full of boxes containing mass amounts of dog food, leashes, collars, and doggy treats. For the Love of Paws provided all the vaccines that would be given to the dogs and one very brave cat.
“If these kids went to a vet and asked for vacs, this is everything that they would get,” said Jenn with For the Love of Paws.
The doors opened at noon, but many of the kids began gathering in the back, dogs in hand, as early as 9:00 a.m. waiting for the green light to grab food and sign their loyal companions up for a day of care.
Nancy from San Luis Valley Animal Welfare Society met each dog and owner, getting them on the waiting list to get in to see the doc.
Many of these dogs are on the road, or haven’t had the vaccines they need due to the lack of education and cost, leaving their pets vulnerable for infection and disease. The volunteers were a beacon of hope in the lives of these homeless pet owners by providing 100% free love and care.
Dogs are very common for street kids to have. As a pet owner myself, I understand that a dog or cat is not just a furry face, they become family members. Dogs are a fountain of unconditional love and loyalty when treated well, and many of these kids have never experienced that kind of treatment from the families they were born into, so it’s no surprise that dogs are so common among the homeless youth.
Records and documentation of the updated treatment for the pets were kept and handed out to each one of their owners. All the volunteers were so well informed and answered a lot of questions that these kids had about proper treatment.
There’s no doubt the genuine love and compassion that all the volunteers felt for both our street kids and their pets.
This past month has been full, the kind of full that makes you want to just take a nap and hope all the obligations and appointments go away when you wake up. My days fly by reminding me of a game I would play when I was a child. Spinning round and round until the colors were blurred and my feet began to wobble, I recall hitting the ground as I lost complete balance and I would watch as the room would continue to spin and I would wait for my eyes to catch up with the room. I would sit and wait calmly before getting up, for I knew if I stood up too quickly I would just fall back down again.
Do you ever find yourself caught in a storm of a day that leaves your soul spinning, or a week, perhaps even several months at a time? When seasons of “busy” wash on to the shore of your life, where nothing seems to be slowing down, hours seem to pass in a blink of an eye and before you know it you’re playing catch up with life.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 ESV
I feel as if the control over my life is slowly slipping through my fingers, and that’s scary, because I don’t know what will happen if I let go. Maybe it’s not a matter of letting go, perhaps it’s a matter of prioritizing.
It’s important to know and understand what should take precedent in life, and for me personally, it’s important to understand what Jesus says about where my priorities need to be. I have my relationship with Christ, fueling hope, to ground me, to keep my world from spinning, but it’s a matter of letting my legs fall and rest in the life of Christ.
Some of the kids here at Sox Place find their grounding in music, art, or hope for money to come, and for some kids, their grounding place is Sox Place, when their life has been flipped, or their tired of traveling. What do you hope for? What grounds you when life begins to spin?
“Hope for the future, hope that I get to be in an apartment again, the hope that at some point I’ll finish my art, my music. My friends keep holding me up, relationships help me stay strong…” said Emmanuel. He had his circumstances changed too quickly, and has now ended up on the streets.
“For three years I had control over my situation and all of a sudden I lost my place and my mother, and it was just too much,” said Emmanuel.
For Brian, another one of our friends, music is what moves him, grounds him, and gives him purpose. He’s always happy to be here and share different songs that he’s working on, even when he only has three strings on his guitar.
“I’ve been playing guitar since I was 10 years old, music is what keeps me hopeful,” said Brian.
When times get dizzying, and hope becomes scarce, Sox Place is here to be a landing place for street kids. A place to find rest and solitude. It’s a place that street kids and travelers can sit and wait for the room to quit spinning, before trying to stand again.
Would you like to help give to Sox Place, but don’t know where to start? Here’s a couple of ways you can benefit our drop in center for street youth in Denver!
Buy our merch: http://www.soxplace.bigcartel.com/
Donate directly: http://soxplace.com/donate/
Shop at AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Sox Place Inc. Bookmark the linkhttp://smile.amazon.com/ch/73-
Have you ever wondered if the men and women standing on the street corners asking for help, actually need it? I know I have. Their broken down cardboard signs, signed off with a “God Bless” tugs at my heart strings every time. I want to help those that are in need, but how do I know what I donate; money, food, or otherwise is actually going to someone who really needs my help? I know that not all people with signs asking for assistance actually need it, and I also know there’s a lot of people who aren’t asking for help, that actually really need it. So what’s a “giver” to do?
That’s where organizations like Sox Place come in. By providing food, clothing, diapers, dog food, socks, underwear, and other sanitary items to help street kids, Sox Place has become a popular place for the youth on the streets to spend their days. Everyone who attends Sox Place has a story, many have been kicked out of their homes, grew out of the foster care system, or are enduring financial hardship.
Creating meaningful relationships is at the core of what Sox Place does by loving and supporting those that really do need help. I sat down with Nathan, one of our frequent attenders who expressed his gratitude for Sox Place and how it has changed his life.
“This place, is a little more real than some of the other resources in Denver who always make it feel like they have to be there for us, but Sox Place is here because they genuinely want to help us out,” Nathan said. “I’ve come into Sox Place depressed many times, but I always leave feeling like a much better person. There’s always people around here who I know are going through the same things I’m going through. They’re really listening to me and I’m listening to them and we connect. I always end up feeling better about my situation when I leave here.”
Sox Place is here to serve kids that are on the streets, struggling to survive by providing more than just food and clothing. We also provide job training by offering internships to help build a resume for kids that are looking to work.
“They gave me an internship, which was really cool, and a great learning experience. Over the past four years Sox Place has given me food when I needed it, a place to sleep during the day and provided me a chance to get to know a lot of people and now I have a family. It’s a really great place to be,” said Nathan.
Nathan’s contagious smile that usually sits spread across his face turned serious as we began to discuss what he really would like from society. It was clear that he’s grateful for the food, clothing and shelter that has been given to him, but the one thing he yearns for, and what continues to bring him back to Sox Place is being treated like a regular human being.
“I would like for society to treat us more like people. Everyday hundreds of people walk down the mall and see a homeless person and just walk on by, avoiding eye contact. They don’t acknowledge us as actual people, they don’t acknowledge us as actual humans, they only see us as HOMELESS PEOPLE and not human beings, and that hurts,” Nathan said, slightly raising his voice full of sincerity.
What makes people in suit and ties better than people in donated or thrifted clothing? What constitutes them to have the right to a happy life, versus kids who have left an abusive home, or the foster care system? I saw the hurt in Nathan’s eyes when we began to talk about the rest of society, that had a safe home to return to.
“The difference between us and them is they have a lot of stuff, so they have this superiority complex, they believe they’re better than us. What they don’t understand is if their house burned down in a fire, they could easily be in the same position we’re in, it could happen to anyone. I didn’t think it would happen to me, and I’m out here,” he said.
What Nathan brought to my attention was that, having more things doesn’t make you a superior human, and America, and most civilized countries base their worth on profits and consumerism. Homeless, poor, rich, middle class, we’re all humans and more than things, all humans want to be treated as humans, as equals. Loved, accepted, and feeling worth something.
It’s easy to point the blame at society and demand equal treatment to those that are homeless and those that aren’t, but what does that even begin to look like? I was shocked by Nathan’s answer as he began to list things that he noticed, were unfair.
“If we were treated as equals places wouldn’t charge excessive amounts of money to use the bathroom, just because we have no where else to go. We wouldn’t be harassed for having to sleep outside, and we would be allowed to sit down on the mall during daylight hours. There would be no such thing as an urban camping ban,” said Nathan.
I’ve personally never been charged to use a bathroom, I’ve never been harassed for sitting down on the sixteenth street mall on a hot summer day, and this is all due to how I look. I look like I’m not homeless, therefore I don’t get harassed. Next time you encounter a street kid, treat them as your equal.
If you are looking to help those in need, help by donating or supporting organizations like Sox Place, that treat street kids like the equals that they are and provide them with the help they actually need. Volunteer in your communities, when you go out to dinner box up the extra food and find a street kid to feed, donate your clothes to Sox Place or local shelters, or buy a Sox Place shirt which helps fund us and keep our doors open! These are all great ways to get involved and make your community a better place.