One of the major goals of my job is to “connect” with the street youth that walk through the door. That being said, some youth are easier to connect with than others, and some days are easier than others. One thing that I have realized is that the more we get out of the “norm” with the youth, the easier it is to have a true conversation with them. If we fall into the same everyday pattern, it can be hard for the youth to come in expecting anything other than the basic resources that we try to provide.
Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to do some manual labor with one of our kids who regularly comes into Sox Place when the drop in center is closed. Being in a different setting with this youth has been awesome. We have the ability to talk about real life whether that is relationship problems, money problems, or just the everyday issues of being young and on the streets. While our youth have different struggles, I realize that they are regular people, just like anyone else dealing with the same types of issues – their struggles may just look a little different.
See, no matter where we are in life, we have some type of relational or monetary struggle. It can be easy for people to point a finger at the street youth and to say that they are lazy or strung out; however, in reality, we are dealing with many of the same problems, no matter how much we do or don’t have. We need to start looking at one another at a basic human level, and it will probably be much easier for us to connect with the people we encounter each day in a genuine way.
I love to bike. It’s almost a problem. At the time I had three different bicycles: a fixed gear, an older mountain bike, and a sleek road bike. Up to this point I had ridden my road bike or my fixie every single day, but my mountain bike sat unused in the courtyard of an apartment complex, suffering through torrential downpours and a lack of use. It was given to me as a gift from a friend, but it required a fair amount of work to get it up and running again. I was living in Boulder when I received the bike, so I dropped by a veloswap of sorts near the Boulder Beer brewery and picked up an old Shimano XTR rear wheel along with an 8-speed cassette saturated with years of chain grease and road grime. I snagged a used Kenda rear tire at Community Cycles for a couple bucks and got to work. I soon had the bike up and running, but it ultimately sat idle for months.
Several months later, after moving to Denver and beginning my work as part of the staff at Sox Place, I began to seriously consider selling my mountain bike since I almost never used it and was tight on money. I figured that I would be able to get a modest amount of money for it, – at least enough to pay for groceries for a couple months – but God had different plans. I started praying that I would be able to give my bike to one of the kids at Sox Place instead – someone who would truly benefit from it. The next day, I overheard Ziggy – one of the kids at Sox Place – mention that he needed a bike to get around while he was on work-release from jail. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my prayer had been answered. I had met Ziggy a few times before and knew his story well enough to know that his life had changed drastically during the 8 years that he was in prison. I knew that giving him my mountain bike would help greatly, especially with his job search.
A week later, after getting a much-needed new seatpost for the bike and tuning it up once again, I was able to ride out to Northfield with Jordan to Marco’s Pizza, where Ziggy had recently been hired to work full time. He was ecstatic to finally be able to see the bike I had mentioned to him a week prior; especially in knowing that it was completely his. Jordan, Doyle, and I sat and listened as Ziggy ate a large slice of pepperoni pizza and told us about his new job. I learned that he would be out on parole within the next month, and that he hopes to be able to find an apartment in the near future. Even despite the short amount of the time that I have been here at Sox Place, I have had the opportunity to see one amazing success story, and I hope to see more.
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Sox Place is a drop in center for street kids that provides a safe haven for them to call home. But it’s not just a drop in center, it’s a church. Doyle and the supporters of Sox Place are dedicated to changing lives one relationship at a time in the heart of Denver. Surrounded by prostitution, heroine use, and meth addiction Doyle dives into the mess of people’s lives and loves them where they are at.
Imagine being 16, 17, or 18 and living on the streets. CNN catches up with some of Denver’s homeless youth to find out what it’s like. It is a story of survival and hope. Most of them have found a home through Sox Place. Even though they face more struggles than most, they have not let their dreams die.
Thousands of fans stream toward Coors Field for a Colorado Rockies baseball game on this Saturday night in downtown Denver. I make my way through the crowd to the corner of 16th Street Mall (a mile-long pedestrian walkway with shops and cafés) and Arapahoe Street, four blocks from Coors Field, where most visitors would love to spend an evening enjoying Italian cuisine or sipping coffee.
Less than 50 yards away are nearly 50 street kids who hang out here. Some on skateboards attempt tricks on various steps, handrails and curbs. Nearly all of the youth know each other, but pockets of closer friendships exist within the group.
They all know Doyle Robinson, an Assemblies of God U.S. missionary, and seem to have let him into their world. Several youth give Robinson a hug as we arrive downtown. Nearly five years ago, Robinson began ministering to these Denver teens and college-age adults by giving out socks, drinks or whatever snacks he had from his minivan.