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.
There she was, sitting by the dumpster out by Sox Place holding her stomach and crying. I couldn’t help but have a breaking heart for her and wonder, what is her story? Why is she here, why is she homeless? Kat arrived in Denver last April weighing a healthy 175 Ibs, but as the year has gone on she found herself unable to hold down food and weighing 115 Ibs. She didn’t really realize anything was wrong with her weight until she finally put on clothes that she had worn back in April.
“I didn’t go to the hospital until one day I put on a skirt that I had made, that I wore when I first got here, and it was tight on me. I remember it lookin’ so good, and recently I put it on and I was holding it out in front of me and it fell off me completely. I could feel the bones in my chest and my hip bones. I’ve never felt those before. I’ve always been super healthy and chunky. Everyone on my Facebook thinks I’m on drugs, and they think I’m tweaked out because I’m so skinny. Most of them just say ‘well just eat more, smoke more weed and eat more.’ Everyone gives me all this advice and they have no clue that I throw up every time I eat and it sucks so bad, and there’s nothing I can do about it,” she said.
The twenty five year old traveler was diagnosed with chronic nausea a couple of weeks ago, and has a hard time eating without throwing up.
“It’s gotten so bad to where I really can’t keep my food down, so I have to go to the hospital, they put me on Phenergan drip and let me sleep for four hours so that I’m not nauseous the rest of the day. Then I can get some food in me,” she said.
As a traveler, Kat carries all her belongings on her back, and sleeps outside, and she has felt herself grow weak, and carrying her pack has become more difficult.
“Sometimes I have to leave my pack at Sox Place because I can’t pick my pack up. I pass out all over the place,” she said. “I don’t like hanging out with my friends anymore because I’m always complaining about something. They have to listen to me b**ch about everything. I think they don’t think I’m telling the truth. My boyfriend helps a lot, but he has to take care of both of us,” she said.
Kat wasn’t born homeless, but it did make me wonder, how does someone’s life get to be like this? There’s so many stigmas about homeless kids and travelers, but each person has their own story, just like you and me.
“I grew up in a really small town, where my grandparents raised me. My Dad never moved out of their house but he was a total crack head, all he does is sit around and smoke crack all day and sometimes he could be abusive. Eventually I gave an ultimatum to my grandparents that they either kick him out or I was gonna move out. He kept arguing with my grandma, which is really the only person who cares about me. So I left, and I ended up with this crazy guy who got addicted to coke and I ended up in Savannah at the rainbow gathering, which is a big traveling troop of hippies,” she said.
After a while, Kat got word that her Grandma had fallen into a depression due to her disappearance.
“I went back to my hometown because my grandma thought I was dead. My grandma was really sad and I didn’t like that. My little brother was sitting out on the porch blowing bubbles and when he saw me his eyes got huge and he ran out towards me, and I was like whoa he loves me. My Grandpa wouldn’t let me stay on the property, because I left home. So I was couch hoppin’ and that’s when I got addicted to opanas. I went full force, and got super high and super addicted to opioid’s and did that for two- two and a half years,” she said.
After a couple of years not having a place to sleep Kat got sick of the streets and didn’t want to sleep outside any longer. So she did what she could to get herself off of the streets by dancing.
“I became a stripper because I didn’t want to sleep outside anymore. I noticed all these girls on spring break, and I realized all these girls were flashing their boobs for beads, and I decided that I was gonna go get a hotel for the night. I became a dancer for two years and I got clean off drugs, in the strip club, I got completely clean. Then I met this guy who was a traveler, he was a dirty kid like me. We started hanging out and we were together for five years,” she said.
For the first time in a long time things started to look up for Kat.
“I graduated college as a motorcycle technician and I was doing pin up modeling, I got my picture in a magazine, and me and my boyfriend graduated college. Then we broke up about a year ago. He was really abusive. He got this really nice job and he was making like 50 bucks an hour and I wasn’t doing anything. I got a job at Taco Bell,” she laughed and shook her head. “He just started looking down on me. He was buying new shoes every two weeks because he could. I was in debt to him, his family became my family and if we broke up then I didn’t have a family. It was a weak point in my life, I was really pathetic and always begging. It was really sad. I did that for like five years and then we broke up, and I haven’t seen him for a year,” she said.
With sincerity in her eyes, Kat began to tell me about the sweetest guy she has ever met, who now is her boyfriend.
He’s the nicest boyfriend I’ve ever had in my whole life. He’s a traveler too, he’s got long red dreads, and he’s a squeegee punk, he’s very intelligent. He’s an intellect. He feels like the outcast in his family, since he’s the only one with red hair, but he can play the guitar really really good. We’re gonna go to Key West and get a boat. He cleans car windows at the red lights but he went to jail yesterday for the third time, it’s called aggressive pan handling. The people say no to getting their windows washed, but that’s what’s punk about it. They say no, and he’s like, listen… I’m just gonna clean your window and I’m gonna do it for free. And they’re like “No!” and then they call the cops,” she said.
“Yesterday I realized how much I need him, all my other friends did too. I ended up stuck by the river all day, because I couldn’t pick my pack up. I can’t get my friends to pick my pack up, and one of them got in my face and yelled at me, saying I couldn’t take care of my dogs. I’m just sick and tired. I take really good care of my dogs,” she said with tears welling up in her eyes, “I’m just really sick. I need my boyfriend because he doesn’t mind, he’ll help take care of them, because he’s their daddy. He doesn’t mind helpin’ me move my pack, because he loves me,” she said.
This is only the surface of what this young lady has gone through, but she’s trying her best to stay hopeful for the future. After years of traveling and being on the streets, Kat is ready for something different.
“I just want a place to stay, I would love my own bedroom, and a bathroom, so I can lay in bed. I want to go to Florida, after doing this for ten years, I’m tired of it.”
These are personal stories of kids that we serve at Sox Place. We want to educate the public and our supporters of the types of kids who need us and use our drop in center in Denver, Colorado. If you want to help us keep our building so that we can continue to speak into the lives and love the lost and broken please visit our donate page. We appreciate your support, and so do our kids.