As you all may know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness month and Sox Place is more than willing to bring up some heavy statistics. Many street kids and runaways engage in survival sex and 34% report being sexually abused before they ever leave home. One in four girls are sexually assaulted before they even turn 18 and one in six boys experience the same damaging fate. Men and women that sexually assault their victims are not all scary strangers lurking in dark alleys but instead can hide behind masks of normal people–friends, family members, and people you may trust. Parents don’t let this converstaion go silent in your homes. Readers, do not blame, pass judgemnet, or pretend that it’s not happening all around you. At Sox Place many of our kids have been hurt and affected by sexual assault and abuse. We provide a safe place, a loving atmosphere, and a judgement free zone for the street youth of Denver. Kids can be kids at Sox Place. They don’t have to worry about their safety or security while they are under our watch. If you like what we are doing at Sox Place and believe that victims of sexual assualt should continue to have a safe place to go please consider partnering with us and supporting us financially on our donate page.
The trees are budding and the snow is melting here in Denver, and I’m really hoping that the warmer temperatures are here to stay. Has anyone began cleaning out their closets yet? I know I have a few things I need to bag up. You know who’s closet is cleaned out? Sox Places. I noticed that we are in bad shape when it comes to some essentials for our kids down here who probably feel the elements a little deeper than the rest of us. So for you, I made a special list, a list of things that we ALWAYS love getting, in no particular order.
That about sums up our spring cleaning list. We love you guys and all the support you have continued to give Sox Place over the years. We survive on our faith and the hearts of the people that are making donations to our ministry. Without that we would have shut down a long time ago. Continue to pray for us as we wage war on the wicked problems homelessness by continuously showing these kids love and grace, something they don’t get many other places.
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.
Our screen printing business has seen it’s ups and downs and right now it’s headed in a really great direction. I got a chance to catch up with Chuck Freeman (You can call him Chuckie) who has joined our team down in Denver to run our Screen Printing business that helps fund the ministry of Sox Place. We’re stoked to have him on our team!
KR: How long have you been working with Sox Place Screen Printing?
CF: Remotely I’ve been working with Sox Place Screen Printing since May of last year. Physically, I’ve been down here for two weeks.
KR: What about Sox Place makes you want to be here?
CF: From the first time I ever came to Sox Place, there was something about the atmosphere that led me to where I am today. I wanted to be apart of Sox Place. I didn’t care what I had to do, I just wanted to be apart of it. Whether it was sweeping the allies, or hanging with the kids. I just knew I had to be apart of this and be involved in what Sox Place is doing for these kids. It just makes sense that there was going to be a place for me here.
KR: How did you find that place that has now come available to you?
CF: Jordan and I were hanging out at his place and he was expressing the need he had for someone who could do graphic design and do this trade. Ironically enough, unknown to him, this is what I went to school for. Somewhere along the line I went a different direction in what I was educated in, but this was something I knew and was trained to do. One thing led to another and I began receiving emails and design projects and that turned into what it is now.
KR: What’s the extent of your involvement?
CF: I do work full time and I’m in Denver Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and then I’m in Steamboat Springs the rest of the week working with remote contacts.
KR: What direction do you want to see Sox Place Screen Printing go?
CF: One of the directions that Sox Place Screen Printing was heading for some time was a separation from Sox Place itself. It was basically a stand alone business in relation to the drop in center. Myself, Doyle, and Jordan all agreed that it didn’t make any sense for it to take that direction. We all believe that it should be intertwined and the Screen Printing should be more associated with the drop in center than ever before. We want to create consistent branding across all entities. No matter if Sox Place is printing tee shirts, building hot rods, changing the oil on someones car. No matter what we want the same logo, same colors, and same look across the board. Which was not the case before.
KR: If you had a message you wanted to send to people interested in Sox Place Screen Printing what would that be?
CF: What we do is like no one else in the trade. Your money is better spent here than with any other business. 100% of our profits go back into Sox Place. So with any tee shirt, garment, hoodie and hand bag, all the profits from those transactions goes to meals and provisions. Basically we are doing exactly what our tagline says, which is changing lives of street youth one tee shirt at a time.
I took a seat next to Misty at one of the white tables at Sox Place that had traces of spaghetti left from the person that had sat there before. Parked next to the table was a shopping cart full of her valuables that she always kept a close eye on. After having a hard time transitioning from jail back into the community at 20 years of age, she found herself homeless. “I couldn’t afford rent, I couldn’t get a job, due to the nature of my case I’m often denied work, which sucks,” said Misty with a bit of sass as she sat back in her chair and crossed her arms.
Time in jail, years on the streets, and a lack of friendships along the way, Misty has encountered many obstacles to overcome from a very young age. Abandoned at just five years old, Misty’s biological parents moved her to Colorado where her aunt and uncle became her legal guardians. Misty has had a unique life journey by having to navigate her life as someone who identifies as a woman although she was born a male. “Growing up having a gender identification that’s different from most people and having to grow up in the background I grew up in just didn’t mix. My family wouldn’t understand it and I didn’t want to explain to them that I identified that way. They never would have believed anything I ever told them. Instead I just kept my mouth shut,” she said.
Regardless of Misty’s family life, she claims that her biggest inspiration in life is her Baptist Grandma who recently passed away. Her Grandmother was the religious backbone of her family and Misty expressed that a major takeaway she always got from church was not to judge others. “I have always used that as a guideline principle for my life. If I judge somebody then I assume I will be judged harder than I already am. I feel judgement pretty harshly as it is, and it hurts me, so I try not to judge others,” Misty said with a sincere tone.
Recalling the important people in her life, Misty stared up at the ceiling for a moment as if a projection screen of memories danced above our heads. She spoke very highly of her Grandmother and the impact she had on her life. “The last words my Grandma spoke to me before she passed away has stuck with me. I can remember it like yesterday. Her eyes searched as she recited these words delicately,
“I know you’re not like the others and quite honestly I don’t care, I like who you are. Just make the right decisions and don’t screw up.”
“My Grandma was more baptist than the rest of my family has ever been. For her to say that she knew I was different and she loved me for the way I was…I took that to heart. It’s been burned on my mind ever since. It showed me what true love is. I’m striving to make the best decisions, to do my best. I know I’m not always there but I’m striving everyday.”
Many people came and stopped by during my talk with Misty, asking her about what she was doing later that day or just to hang out with us. There’s no doubt that she is familiar with everyone here at Sox Place, which has been a resource that she has used often during her years on the streets. “It’s where I can find community and of course food” she said with a chuckle. “I can come down here hang out, get on the computers and access Facebook so that I can communicate with friends and family. It’s been a home away from the home I don’t have yet. When I’m struggling I know that I can come to Doyle or Jordan, I know that somebody will be here to talk to if I need it.”
Although Misty has been a frequent attender of Sox Place for the past few years, she has been given the opportunity to make a new start for herself as she’s been approved for a housing voucher. This is a huge step for her and a step in the direction of honoring the instructions of her Grandmother. “I can actually start looking for a place to live. I think that should be easy enough, I’m just going to sign a lease for whatever opens up first. I’m not going to be picky. Ive been homeless for three years so there’s no point to bother with picking and choosing, especially because it’s a life time voucher,” she said.
Life has a funny way of throwing us into some of the hardest circumstances, and Misty is coming out of a drought. When life seems to dry up its resources, it’s important to hold on tight. There will be always be times in life where hope seems lost. When the time comes to uplift and encourage those around us, do so with a loving heart. It’s hard to say the sort of impact this will have on others’ lives.
Misty spoke of a few genuine people that were always there for her. “Tough times, great times, thick and thin, it never mattered. That’s a definition of A friend. It’s just easier to know that I have a friend that is with me regardless of my situation.”
If there’s a constant between all the kids I speak with at Sox Place, it’s that they are there for one another. Obviously not everyone gets along, but they each have a web of people that are their “street brothers” or “street sisters.” Many of them have spoke to me about their “street family” and how without them they wouldn’t have made it this long. They realize without community they would die out here. The world is hard, dark and unforgiving. If anyone knows that it’s these guys and girls.
What I love about Sox Place is that the street kids include us in their community, and they feel included in ours. They find family here, they find relationship here. Just like they have their friends who have their backs on the streets, they know that they also have Sox Place and everyone that works here has their back too. If there is a new comer to town it’s not long before they end up walking through those big red doors. “What is this place?” I have been asked countless times by those who have found themselves either stuck in Denver or just traveling through.
As someone who sits in the middle between all our readers, our supporters, and our street kids what I see is one very large community. Do you all know that you too are part of these kids lives on a very personal level? They have their street family, they have Sox Place, these are their resources. When you support us, when you become part of our family then that means these kids also have you. Without your continued support we couldn’t be here for these kids.
I love this because, how often in our day to day lives do we get to engage on a deep and personal level with the people in our lives? I had a friend come to me just last week at the end of her rope. It’s my duty to love her and do what I can to help because she’s part of my community. What if we treated the people we see on a daily basis like we would die without them, and they would die without us?
The truth is without the support of our community, Sox Place couldn’t exist for these kids. I urge you to assess your lives, who is in your community? Do you have people that surround you that have your back, that you can be real with? Someone on your team that you can call at 3 A.M. and know they will be there for you?
That’s what this circle is all about. You’re here for us, we’re here for you, and together we’re here for the kids that are battling the streets and attempting to survive and thrive. So thank you for being on our team, for having our backs! Love you guys.
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.