As I stood on the tile beside the door, getting my mind ready for the blast of cold and snow that I was about to encounter, I looked down at my boots. My ugly boots. My old, dirty, ugly boots. I’d had them since high school – about ten years now. Ten years is a long time to have a pair of shoes when you’re only 26 and female. They were a sort-of faded black – I couldn’t remember if they had always been that color or if they had faded over time – with dirt on the top of one of them that I couldn’t seem to get off. They were size almost-too-big. Clunky was a good description for them; I sounded like a 300 pound drunk man when I walked across the floor. And they were plain. Completely plain, except for the drawstring around the top to keep the snow from getting inside. They were my old, dirty, ugly boots.
Trekking across the yet-to-be-plowed parking lot toward my bus stop, through snow drifts up to my ankles, I was almost thankful for those ugly boots. But just almost. When I sat down on the bus, my feet were dry and warm, which is important to a cold-natured person such as myself. But they were still my ugly boots. I couldn’t help but frown down at them, no matter how subconsciously thankful I was for unfrozen toes.
With my feet under my desk at work, I didn’t have to think about my unsightly boots too much. I went to work, getting done what I had planned to finish that day in no time. This made it so I could help out in the drop-in center for most of the day, hanging out with the street youth that come into Sox Place. Between getting warm socks for the kids and cleaning up coffee spills – cold, numb hands don’t attach well to warm cups of coffee – it was easy to ignore the sound of big-foot coming from my own boots.
Not long after we opened, a girl came in almost unnoticed among the extra-large crowd that Sox Place attracts on snowy days. But she stood out a little more than the others – at least to me. The coat she had on looked warm enough, but it was obviously too small. Small tufts of blonde hair poked out of her too-tight hood just enough to see that neither a comb nor shampoo had touched it in weeks. Her nose was running and her face was red. Her lips looked as if she were to try to smile, they would start bleeding in about ten places. She had her sleeping bag draped over most of her body so as to keep the flying snow away as she walked. The legs of her jeans were wet half-way up to her knees from being dragged through slush. And her non-waterproof boots looked as if someone had soaked them in a bathtub of ice water overnight before giving them to her to wear.
She came up to me and asked, barely audible, “Can I go downstairs to get shoes and some dry clothes?”
“Absolutely,” I responded, as I led her to the donation room. I pointed to the piles of shoes and coats while she removed the load from her back.
“Thank you,” she said, her voice a little stronger. “I got here as fast as I could. My feet are so cold. I tried to run, but I couldn’t feel my feet. I almost fell.” She looked down at her sloshy boots and took a step. “Oh! They hurt so bad!” She walked closer to the shoes. “Oh, they hurt!”
I didn’t know what to tell her. Frostbite was the first thing that came to my mind, but I didn’t want to tell her that. Surly she didn’t have frostbite. “Maybe you should take off your wet socks and shoes, and I’ll go get you some dry socks.”
She began to take off her shoes, and I went upstairs to grab some thick socks. When I came back, she had picked out some boots in her size (good thing she had small feet – they were the last pair of boots we had) and was headed toward the pile of coats, cursing her feet as she went.
I handed her the socks, and she sat down with a curse, “They hurt so bad! Why would they hurt so much?”
I looked at her bare feet as she rubbed them between her hands before putting on the socks. They were wrinkled, as if she had been in the shower too long. And red. So red it looked like she was overheated, but I knew it was just the opposite. “I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe it’s like after you’ve been playing in the snow, then you come inside and wash your hands in warm water, and it hurts a lot because your fingers got so cold.”
She didn’t respond to my answer. I’m not sure if she thought it was as dumb as I thought it had sounded or if she was thinking about it. Either way, she finished her business and put on her new-found, fitting coat and warm, waterproof boots.
As I watched her toss her old, soaked boots to the side, I couldn’t help but look down at my own feet. Maybe it was the lighting in that basement or the fact that I was standing on a crumbling concrete floor, but for some reason, my boots didn’t look quite so ugly anymore.
By Kara Knight
“My dad wasn’t there to teach me how to be a man, so I looked to my friends,” he said. “I didn’t have no one to look up to. I had to teach myself everything.” – a 30 year old father, convicted felon.
We, as a society, condemn the fatherless around us, saying they should be men, but who was there to teach them? I do not believe that a boy can grow up to be a man by himself. A man must teach a boy to be a man! Boys learn from their environment, their peers, and adults in their lives such as coaches, teachers, pastors, etc.
Deseret News (Salt Lake City) reports that “one-third of American children in America are growing up without their biological father, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.” Let me say thank you to step fathers, coaches, teachers, pastors, and male family members for stepping in when Dad is absent! There are many men today that are healthy and stable because of these men that filled the gap. But we cannot ignore the facts of fatherlessness in America:
I remember a time when a young man, about 18-20 years old, became disrespectful and aggressive towards me. I had told him, in a calm manner, that he was breaking the rules. He became angry, calling me an old man and told me that we could go outside to the alley to handle it! For some reason it made me laugh, which just made matters worse! He finally left, talking at me the whole time.
Within a short amount of time, I began to ask myself about who this young man’s father was or if a father was even around. Where did he learn this way of responding to male authority? The young man came back to Sox Place a couple of weeks later, and I was able to apologize to him for my response toward him, for I became angry because of the way he came at me. I told him that he broke the rules, but I was wrong in the way that I responded to him, and that I should not have laughed. He was very apologetic, saying it was he that owed me an apology! We shook hands, and I won a friend.
So next time you look at a young man who looks or acts as if he doesn’t know how to be a real man, consider his upbringing or the “role models” he grew up with. Don’t have a judgmental attitude; think about where his father is. Maybe he had to learn about being a man from a gang or a drug dealer or one their peers who didn’t know how to be real man himself. More than once a street kid has come to me with tears, asking me to teach him how to be a man. They said they were jealous of my sons and wanted me to give them the same that I had given them.
The vast majority of street kids who have come through Sox Place and my life are good kids, just some really bad things have happened to them. So I will continue to “bring the Father’s heart (love) to the fatherless!”
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.
Cigarette smoke swirled and mingled with the cool night air as it drifted upwards into the evening sky against a backdrop of city lights. I sat on the front porch, enjoying a conversation and sharing laughs with Ziggy and several other guys as we shared stories from our week. We had just driven back from the shops at Northfield Stapleton, where some of the staff from Sox Place and I had been able to purchase some new clothes for Ziggy in celebration of him being released from jail. It was only his second day out, and he loved every minute of it.
It was a Thursday evening, and we had met for a Bible study at Sam’s place to read and discuss a few chapters out of 1 Samuel. We all sat and listened as Sam read the first several passages. We talked about the birth of Samuel, his dedication to the Lord by his mother Hannah, and his interaction with Eli as he learns to hear the voice of God. As we talked, Ziggy began asking questions about the life of a Christ-follower. It was easy to tell that he was fully enveloped in the conversation, eager to learn and seek encouragement in the faith.
Though he was in prison for eight years, Sox Place has had the opportunity to radically change the direction of Ziggy’s life. Ziggy isn’t the same person that he was even a few years ago, all thanks to the people that make up this organization. The low number of evident “success stories” that come out of Sox Place can be reason enough to be discouraged at times, but we are here for every single street kid that walks through the doors of Sox Place, praying for them; supporting and providing for them; and growing a meaningful relationship with them, even if it is only to plant a seed.
As I rode home that night, the streetlights casting a golden glow on the city streets, I realized that all it takes to initiate transformation in someone’s life is to plant a seed. We truly love and believe in the street youth of Denver, and we hope to continue planting seeds that will eventually blossom into something much greater.
Written by Benten Woodring
At any point in time, there are over 1,100 homeless youth (ages 14-24) and over 5,000 homeless students (children attending school, but considered homeless) in the Denver-Metro area.* Denver is home to thousands of gang members, countless drug and alcohol addicts, victims of human trafficking, and hundreds of other at-risk youth.
Sox Place is reaching 60-80 of these youth each day.
Each Tuesday through Saturday, we provide a hot meal, mentoring, resources and referrals, clothing, blankets, internet access, recreation, employment assistance, housing assistance, and on-the-job training. Sox Place is a safe environment that is like family – a family that loves and accepts street youth for who they are and where they are in life. The above services will give the street youth the opportunity to end the vicious cycle of hopelessness that they face on a regular basis.
Denver Colorado is known as the “Mile High City” (5,280 feet = 1 mile), and we are asking you to come alongside Sox Place by giving $52.80 a month in support. Without partners like you, we cannot continue or expand our mission.
Please consider supporting Sox Place. You have the power to change the lives of those who need it most.
Watch our website for more information and videos on 5280 in the coming days!
Want to donate now? Here’s a couple options:
*Source: 2009 Point it Time Survey by Metro Denver Homeless Initiative and Colorado Department of Human Services
In Part I, I pleaded with you to do more than be angry about human trafficking, give your spare change to an organization, then forget about it until you hear another statistic.
Did you forget already?
If you haven’t read Part I, please do. Following is a list of ideas that you can do to get involved. Some of them take time and effort. But what could be more important than valuing human life?
1. Keep your eyes open – Do you see the people on the side of the highway, holding signs that ask for change? What else do they do to get money? Do you see that advertisement for erotic massage? Are those people forced to do what they do? Do you see that drug addict in the street? How did he/she get the money to get those drugs? Do you see that girl with dirty hair in your youth group who is having family problems? Who will she run to when she feels she has nowhere else to turn? Open your eyes! Take note of what is going on around you! Call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline at 1(888)3737-888, or the U.S. Department of Justice Trafficking in Persons Complaint Line at 1(888)428-7581, if you suspect someone is in a trafficking situation.
What is Sox Place doing? Homeless youth are some of the most at-risk for domestic human trafficking. According to the Colorado Department of Human Services, “approximately 30% of homeless youth are lured into prostitution within the first 48 hours of being on the street.” Since Sox Place works directly with these youth, we work hard to build relationships of trust so that we can see when something is wrong and so that they feel they can talk to us about what they are going through. We are also beginning to work with Prax(us), who works directly with domestic human trafficking cases in the Denver area. We feel their programs go about helping these youth in the right way.
2. Give when and where you can – There are plenty of organizations out there. Choose one or two, invest in those, and keep up with what they are doing. You may not be able to give much. You may not even think you can give right now, but try to give something. Give up going out to eat once a week or your daily latte or a weekend movie, and give what you save to your favorite organization. Give intentionally! Here are some organizations to get you started:
Prax(us) – Primarily focuses on domestic human trafficking cases in the Denver area.
Project Rescue – Focuses on international human trafficking.
Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) – Focuses on rehabilitating girls in domestic human trafficking situations.
Stop Child Trafficking Now – Addresses the demand side of child trafficking worldwide.
iEmpathize – Focuses on unique advocacy techniques and events; located in Boulder, CO.
What is Sox Place doing? When you give to Sox Place, your donation helps to serve those at-risk for human trafficking. We, in return, make sure those who have been victimized receive the help they need.
3. Pray – Take the time once a week to focus your prayers on human trafficking. Pray not only for the victims but also for organizations, exploiters/traffickers (pray for your enemies), the culture and society that promotes the sex industry, etc. You can find prayer guides on various websites. The Salvation Army has a good one.
What is Sox Place doing? Most of the staff take one day a week to fast and pray. We pray for many things. One focus is the kids that come into Sox Place, who are one of the most at-risk groups for human trafficking.
4. Educate – Educate yourself on the issue of human trafficking. Watch videos, read books and articles, and research on your own. Keep up to date with the most current news and laws. Most of the websites listed under the “give” section have a page on educating yourself, but perhaps the most comprehensive is Project Rescue’s.
What is Sox Place doing? Sox Places hosts human trafficking seminars to educate the staff and community. We are also constantly doing research, reading articles, and watching the news.
5. Advocate – By now, you know the issue and you are moved to doing something. Passionately sharing your knowledge and what to do about it is one of the most important things. Have your church or business host a human trafficking seminar. If you live in the Denver area, Prax(us) has an amazing seminar that will be designed specifically for your organization. If you are not able to have your business/ church host a seminar, you can find where one will be and invite as many people as possible. Or you can host an advocacy night in your home. This could include a video (GEMS has a documentary “Very Young Girls” with questions for a group setting); a book study or article reading; or you can get others involved and have a theme, such as art or prayer.
What is Sox Place Doing? Sox Place has hosted human trafficking seminars and plans to host more throughout the community. When we find frightening statistics or horrific facts, we share them with each other and with our friends and family.
6. Volunteer – you may not have a center for trafficking victims near you, or, if you do, they may be extremely sensitive to who helps out there, but what about places who address problems behind human trafficking? Commit to one day a week or month to volunteer at a youth drop-in center like Sox Place, a homeless shelter, an advocacy group, or a women’s shelter.
What is Sox Place Doing? If you are interested in volunteering or bringing a group to Sox Place, you can find information under the “Get Involved” tab on our website.
Now that you know the issue and know what you can do, what are you going to do?
Written by Kara Knight
Exclamations of “How horrible!” Tears in the eyes of emotional women. Heads shaking. Questions, “How could someone do that to the innocent?” Mouths gaping in shock. Angry sighs. These are often our reactions to videos, statistics, and presentations on human trafficking… and should be. We should want to cry out for the innocent. We should be angry at those who exploit others – those who allow human trafficking to happen.
We should want to do something.
But how many times have we seen a presentation or heard a statistic about trafficking victims just to throw a few dollars – whatever minimal cash we happen to have on us – in the donation jar, discuss the horrors of the situation on the way home, and wake up the next morning feeling fine?
When is it time to do something?
“But human trafficking is a problem in faraway lands… it’s a job for social workers and missionaries. There’s nothing I can do besides give a couple of bucks when I hear a presentation.”
Wrong. Traffickers bring women and children to the U.S. from other countries right under our noses – Denver is one of the top ten U.S. cities for child sex trafficking (www.projectrescue.com/resources). But what about the blonde haired, blue eyed girl who looks like she’s been used up, standing on the street corner? What about the U.S. citizen who needs quick money to feed his drug addiction?
What are we, as a community, doing that makes it so people can’t meet their basic needs without selling their own or someone else’s body? What did we do for that girl when she was 14 and was kicked out of her house? A pimp was there, ready to “love” her – where were we? What did we do for the drug addict so that he could get help for his addiction and find a good paying, legitimate job? Where were we when he turned to drugs to ease the pain of abuse or neglect?
I could give quote and statistic a million times over as to why we need to get involved, but I don’t think I need to repeat the multiple presentations you have undoubtedly heard. The issue is less about statistics or categories (who deserves to be categorized as a victim) and more about every person deserving to live life to the fullest. My only plea is: If not you, then who is going to do something?
What are you going to do?
Read Part II for ideas and what Sox Place is doing.
Written by Kara Knight
It’s not about what we, as staff, go through with doing such mission as Sox Place. It’s about all the street youth that God brings into our lives, those that cross our path for ten years or ten minutes. They are what Sox Place is all about; a way for us to show the Father’s heart to the fatherless, to the lost and forgotten. We will continue to experience the joys and the heartbreaks of our work, but we will not give up on them!
Stevie (our college intern) and I went out on the streets last Tuesday to see if there were street youth we were missing at Sox Place. We walked down to the half circle, on to Skyline Park 1,2 and 3 and talked to a few here and there. We then walked down the length of 16th Street Mall, finding 8 travelers, or train hoppers as they are called.
One couple, I and S were singing to get money. We found out that she was from the area and he from Florida. She told me that her mother had asked her to come back home, but when she got there her mother wanted nothing to do with her! I wanted to hug her, but instead invited them to Sox Place for blankets, food, and of course socks! I also told her that we would not reject her, that she was welcome to our family!
Thanks for your support so that we can continue to doing our mission to the street youth!