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.
Doyle Robinson can’t remember the exact amount of years that Valerie Biggs has been volunteering for Sox Place but he does recall the exact chain of events and the network of people that brought her here.
Regardless of Doyle’s memory, three years ago Valerie recalls being introduced to Sox Place. A friend of hers had told her that Doyle would take all of her food donations and so she found her way down here to donate some extra food she had on hand. However, when she arrived she realized they needed more than just her food donations.
“I walked in and thought that Doyle was in desperate need of someone to help organize the food pantry and the donations that came in,” she said.
A once unorganized Sox Place was blessed by Valerie and her friend Michelle. “I felt like I couldn’t walk away from the project of straightening and organizing, and I really wanted to help make everything easier on Doyle and the staff on a regular basis,” said Valerie.
Doyle and Jordan were up to their ears with other concerns and didn’t have time to keep the pantry organized when new donations came flooding in. But Valerie stepped in and has made a big impact by volunteering regularly to organize.
“She knows why she’s here and she does what Jordan and I are not good at,” said Doyle. “To me volunteers should fill in the gaps and do the things that we aren’t great at or don’t have the time to spend on.”
Volunteering for Sox Place not only made a big difference in the effectiveness of operations and organization but it has also touched Valerie in a way that keeps bringing her back.
“Every time I go in to volunteer or I’m reading the Sox Place blog I am humbled and reminded how easily I could have been one of the kids at Sox Place. Although my husband and I have a great life together now, our adolescent experiences aren’t much different than those who receive services from Sox Place. It is an honor to give my assistance to everyone who walks through the doors,” she said.
Large orange pizza boxes piled high on the counters of Sox Place’s kitchen awaiting the flood of street kids and travelers that would be hungry for lunch. On Wednesday June 1, 2016 those big red doors opened like they often do and the stream of kids lined up for lunch grabbing cheese pizza by the slice donated from Little Cesar’s.
Free pizza was met with yet another treat. An animal clinic hosted by For the Love of Paws, a local rescue that has found it’s place partnering with Sox Place stepping up as our primary vet resource for all things pets. Jen, the heart of the operations works around the clock for Sox Place and all our visiting pets, even though a year ago she admits that she was not interested in the partnership at all.
“We had never heard of Sox Place. I just knew that we did not have time,” said Jen. But Cindy from a non-profit called Favors Project who often donated collars and leashes to Sox Place didn’t give up on her. Eventually Jen agreed to meet with Jordan Robinson and got a tour of Sox Place. Little did she know what she was in for.
After talking for several hours and witnessing the multitude of kids and pets, Jen couldn’t say no. “I remember coming here for the first time and just being blown away by this place,” said Jen, “It was different than what every other rescue was doing, and we were trying to find our place in rescue.”
For the Love of Paws was on the hunt for a mission that fueled their fire and took rescue a step further from the amazing work of just pulling animals from shelters. “Our hearts wanted more, and we found it the minute I walked in the door here,” said Jen.
Megan Brocato, another key player For the Love of Paws recalled getting a phone call after Jen’s meeting with Jordan. The memories played back in her head like an old record, “I remember Jen calling me and just saying ‘This is what we need to do, and I need you to be on bored,’ recalled Megan. Just a week later they both found themselves being engulfed by the missions at Sox Place.
By 4:00 P.M. last Wednesday the team of volunteers had served eleven dogs and two cats, treating them with a series of vaccines, distemper, and even microchips. This basic and yet necessary care can often cost a pet owner a good chunk of change, and yet they offered the whole clinic for free.
According to a 2014 article off CBS money watch, Americans spend $55.7 billion dollars on their pets annually for all costs. Later in the article it reports that $14.37 billion dollars were spent just on veterinary care.
For the Love of Paws works around the clock networking and fundraising for Sox Place and the pets that are passing through those big red doors. “We have donors and grants that are specifically for Sox Place and Best Pets and (C.A.R.E) sponsored this clinic. There are people behind us that are behind you guys.”
For the Love of Paws not only helps provide dog and cat food, leashes and coats, but also has connections with groups that are ready to pick up any spay and neuter costs that come out of Sox Place. One of the dogs that was treated was a black momma Pit Bull who happened to be super sick. Jen kneeled down in front of the dog owner with her hair pulled back in a ponytail behind a ball cap. After having a very hard conversation with the owner, they agreed the dog would receive urgent care the next day, expenses paid for.
“She’s going to the vet tomorrow,” Jen said shaking her head. “Jeff is going to do what needs to be done on her and the best part is that it’s totally paid for, that dog needs serious medical attention,” said Jen with passion in her eyes.
When Jen and Megan started this rescue a year ago, they approached Jeff Baier to come on board, who is the designated Veterinarian for the clinic.
“We knew we needed to get him and we didn’t even have to convince him to do it, he just said yes right away. He is a blessing to us,” said Jen. Jeff is a Vet at Planned Pethood Plus and get’s Jen’s emergency rescues into a very busy clinic. “We could not do what we do without him. The pit bull is in tomorrow, which otherwise would have taken just 24 hours to get a phone call back,” said Jen.
While working in rescue for animals and pet owners can be rewarding, there are lots of difficult conversations and decisions that Jen and Megan are faced with. While spending time at Sox Place, there have been times where Jen felt the need to step in to a dog or cats life and help make the owner make a choice that both benefits the animal as well as the owner. “There was a puppy that I met here and I told the kid, this one’s got to go, because she’s not going to make it,” said Jen remembering those agonizing times.
Those hard decisions don’t stop at the door of Sox Place either. When a dog out of Sox Place ends up in a shelter Jen is often faced with the choice of leaving them there to be adopted to a new family or to put them back on the street. Back in the hands of a street kid.
Only a few weeks ago one of Sox Place’s kids was approached by Jen for this exact reason. Jessica, an owner of black lab as well as four other pets had her hands full. Jen recognized the lab to be a great animal and eventually asked Jessica to let him go to a home.
“I like Jessica she’s one of those kids that just knows that she couldn’t do it anymore. It was too much. Those are hard choices that we have to make, and she wants to do right for her animals. That’s the kind of kid that we love working with because the want to do the right thing.” said Jen.
There are so many stories and special relationships at Sox Place between a human and their pet. After working in rescue there’s a lot of terrible things that they witness happen to animals but they admit that these kids are not the ones abusing their pets. “That’s their soul pet, their life, their buddy. They’re not going to abuse their animal. I see a greater appreciation for their animals from these kids,” said Jen.
Pets can play a big role in a persons life and we are so grateful for our friends at For The Love of Paws and all that they do to support Sox Place and our pets. If you believe in what they are doing for Sox Place please consider visiting their Facebook page. We are so excited to see how this friendship will continue to grow between us.
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.
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.”
I’ll admit when I first met Milenia and Face I wasn’t sure how they were going to feel about me, but almost right off the bat I knew how I felt about them. They certainly aren’t your average couple, but instead dynamic, interesting and I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone like them. It’s more than just the tattoos that each tell a story, and it’s more than the fact that they were once train riders themselves. It has more to do with the degree to which they serve those around them.
On day one that I began as a volunteer, Milenia showed me around the place, instructing me on how things worked. What they hygiene room was, and how many shirts people were allowed to take from the closet. All the while she was helping in the kitchen, being asked to check the email, and planning to somehow sit down and write thank you cards to some of our supporters. She never once showed an ounce of stress. She reminded me of a saying my mom used to use, “dynamite comes in small packages.” She couldn’t have been taller than 5’4” but that never stopped the way she gracefully managed what seemed to be utter chaos around her. It was an absolute pleasure to work along side you Milenia, to see what the meaning of hard work and compassion is. I admire how the kids at Sox Place always flocked to you, to boast of their success or vent in times of hurt. I strive to be a woman in my community, where people feel they can always come to me for celebration or advice, and know that I am there for them, much like how you were always there for the kids here at Sox Place.
“Face, what an interesting name,” I thought to myself when I first stepped into Sox Place. Maybe I heard them wrong when they introduced me to him. Sure enough that was his name. Face is the type of person that just gets more rewarding to know as time goes on. He’s the quiet type when you first meet him, but as time went on I felt like I got a little bit closer to discovering more about his personality, funny, joyful, and full of life. However what was evident from beginning to end is that Face is one of the hardest working people I know. He never let me fill up the water jugs, he never let me take out trash, and he was always available when we had a donation drop off that needed to be moved inside. When you need help, Face is the kind of guy that will absolutely be by your side. While he worked at Sox Place, he also sometimes spent his mornings working construction across the street. I remember one of the first days I worked with him, he had been working construction all morning, and then helped around Sox Place for a while. Later that afternoon I found him sleeping on one of the dog beds underneath the foosball table. I thought to myself, if everyone worked hard enough to find a dog bed a place of solitude, we might live in a very different society. More than hardworking, Face has a huge heart. As the days began to grow colder he would ask if we could open a little early so that the babies outside could get warm. On Face and Milenias last weekend at Sox Place, I got a picture sent to me telling me a story about how Face gave this little guy his skateboard because his old one was sold by his Dad in order to pay for rent. It was those “little” acts of kindness that Face performed on the daily that really made me understand the kind of person he was.
I only worked with Face and Milenia and Jeebus for five months, and I hope that someday again I will get a chance to see them, and meet their little boy that’s due this spring. Thanks for being such a blessing in my life and making such an impact here at Sox Place. I already miss you guys so much but I know that your new adventure of starting a family will be a wonderful time in your life!
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!
Sox Place is a non profit drop in center for the street youth in Denver, or for those just passing through. We provide services like a hot meal, clean clothes, and a place to find refuge from the harsh world. If you believe in our mission please donate to keep our doors open for kids that need services like this. Or when you shop at AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Sox Place Inc. Bookmark this link http://smile.amazon.com/ch/73-1718252 and support us every time you shop.
“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.”