As the new year is upon us, we look forward to the future with immense hope. This is because the year 2012 was filled with numerous accomplishments and growing experiences. Not only did we see the youth growing and changing, but we see ourselves learning and growing because of them.
One particular youth that received services from YouthHope in 2012 is well on his way to becoming a self-sufficient adult. We were able to assist him into an education program that enabled him to obtain a degree in welding. He is now permanently off the streets, and has been drug free for over a year. This young man came out of the depths of despair that was causing him to consider ending his life. He is now working hard in his field and growing into a responsible man.
Another young man that had been in and out of foster care his entire life, has finally found a place he can call home. Over the course of 2012, YouthHope has seen this young man struggle with drug addiction while trying to find a place to belong. After a failed attempt at a rehabilitation program we were able to get him on the right track. He is in a wonderful home, attending school full time, and working. When asked how he liked his new home he could not contain his excitement when describing how wonderful it was.
A young family that has been receiving services from YouthHope for a number of years, has fought their way off the streets in 2012. The young couple began attending YouthHope when they were just street kids who were not ready to be free from drug addiction and street life. When the young girl found out she was pregnant, the two stuck together to try and create a healthy family. When the clenches of drug addiction took hold, and they lost custody of their child, they were forced to make a change. Both young parents successfully completed drug rehabilitation programs and are now the proud parents of two beautiful children. They are living on their own, and working hard to give their children the very best life possible.
All of these accomplishments have taken countless hours, many tears, and just as many laughs. YouthHope has had to purchase food, clothing, and school supplies for each of these youths. Over the course of the year, YouthHope has been able to purchase an average of 15 youth bus passes each month. This amounts to a total of 180 month long bus passes for youth enrolled in education and job training programs. At each meal time, YouthHope has been able to serve an average of 80 youth. This means that 80 different homeless or at-risk youth are receiving a warm meal three times a week. $2062 was spent on education costs for youth to purchase books, enroll in classes, and receive new clothing for school. Overall, YouthHope has been able to invest time and money into each youth who came to us for services in 2012. This was because of the generous support through many generous donors and through grants directed at youth programs. We hope you will continue to stay informed with all that YouthHope is doing for the homeless and at-risk youth and that you will continue to make a difference in their young lives in 2013.
As YouthHope is now well into its third year as a non-profit organization, it is amazing to see continued expansion of our services to youth in need. Since November 1st, 2012, we have served 462 different youth. In only three months time, over 2,928 meals have been provided to homeless and at-risk youth. During many meals, youth arrive and express urgent needs: hunger, abuse at home, addiction, or unstable housing. Together, volunteers utilize these meal times as a way to familiarize themselves with the youth and their individual needs.
As we have roughly 60-80 youth receiving services on any given evening, we have a growing need for volunteers to work alongside of our youth. Volunteers are essential to YouthHope’s success and we would be utterly unable to continue our outreach without the faithful work of our volunteers and supporters.
This past month, we have been truly amazed by our volunteer’s investment in our youth. Since the new year, volunteers have organized two different day trips for our youth to take part in. The first trip consisted of a hike throughout the San Bernardino Mountain area. Seven youth were taken out of their usual elements and exposed to the beautiful mountain scenery for a day of hiking and exploring.
The second trip consisted of a day trip to Jenks Lake. Together thirteen youth and five volunteers shared an unforgettable day of snowshoeing, sledding, and fishing.
We continue to seek volunteers to invest in our youth. By committing to volunteering for a six month period, once a week for two hours a day, you will be investing in a youth’s future. For more information on becoming a volunteer, please contact us at (909) 663-4543 or fill out a volunteer application by visiting our website at www.youthhope.org. The application and additional volunteer information can be found via the “Volunteer Information” tab.
Randy grew up in San Bernardino. He lived with his mother and father who both abused drugs and alcohol. When Randy was 10 years old, his parents divorced. Unfortunately, neither of Randy’s parents wanted him any longer. Randy’s uncle stepped in and offered to let Randy live with him. Randy moved in with his uncle and for the first few weeks everything went well. Then the abuse started. Over the course of the next 4 years, Randy’s uncle continually sexually molested him and verbally and physically abused him. Randy was only a young boy and was unable to make the abuse stop. He didn’t have a safe place to go or a mother or father that were interested in him. Randy lived with his uncle until the age of 14 when CPS (Child Protective Services) removed him from the home. Randy was finally able to leave his uncle’s home and attempted to go back to his father’s home. When Randy arrived, his father told him that he wasn’t wanted. Randy was only 14 years old. With no other options, and very little trust for any adult, Randy began living on the streets and was homeless at the age of 14.
Randy was homeless in one of the toughest neighborhoods in San Bernardino. He slept in parks among gang members and drug dealers. Daily life for Randy was a horror that most of us can not fathom. Randy never felt safe. He struggled to find the most basic of human necessities. Just finding food to eat and a relatively safe place to sleep at night were his main priorities. Remarkably, Randy still managed to attend high-school. Randy attended a local high school and made it through the 11th grade. At that point the lack of any stable housing and homelessness caused Randy to drop-out of school. For a brief period Randy used drugs and became involved with illegal activities. When Randy was 18 he went to prison for a short time.
This was his first and last brush with the law. For the past 7 years, Randy has worked tirelessly to change his circumstances. He no longer uses drugs and has worked at many odd jobs to rent a room or have shelter over his head. Randy first came to YouthHope a year ago looking for help with job training programs. Due to Randy’s previous convictions, YouthHope case managers are working hard with Randy to provide him with available options. Stay tuned to hear more about Randy’s incredible journey.
Brandy grew up in a very poor family. Her father left when she was just 4 years old. Brandy’s mother worked at odd jobs to pay the rent and provide some food, but there was never enough to feed Brandy and her brother. Not long after Brandy’s father left, her mother began dating another man. Initially, things were a little better because her mother’s boyfriend helped pay some of the rent and buy some food. Brandy and her brother were happy that they had enough to eat again. One day after school, Brandy’s mother told her that her boyfriend was gone. He had been arrested and was in jail.
Once again, Brandy’s life changed. There was never enough to eat and paying the rent was always a struggle. Brandy grew up with extremely low self-esteem, and didn’t make good choices in relationships and often dated young men who used her. It was through one of these boyfriends that Brandy starting attending YouthHope gatherings. Brandy didn’t feel comfortable asking YouthHope for help, but eventually YouthHope case managers were able to find out that Brandy and her brother needed food, clothing, and lots of moral support and hugs. YouthHope provided Brandy’s family with food and clothing when they needed it most.
Brandy graduated from high school and wasn’t sure what her future would hold. She knew she wanted to have a better life, and didn’t want to continue to live as she had been. In speaking with YouthHope case managers, Brandy indicated that she had always wanted to be a math teacher, but didn’t think that she could go to college. YouthHope case managers were adamant that if Brandy really wanted to pursue a career in education, that she could do it. Brandy’s low self-esteem and lack of financial resources posed huge stumbling blocks for her. YouthHope case managers continued to encourage and mentor Brandy, and she finally chose to apply to California State San Bernardino College and was accepted. Brandy applied for financial aid for school and received some assistance, but it wasn’t enough. YouthHope provided Brandy with bus passes to get back and forth from school, with clothes, school supplies, and also helped pay for some of her text books. Unfortunately Brandy still didn’t have quite enough funds and wanted to get an education so badly that she began to sell her blood and plasma every week to have enough money to continue to take classes.
On several occasions, Brandy contemplated giving up her dream, but YouthHope mentors were always there to encourage her and help her when possible. Brandy has two more years of studying to complete before she graduates and still sells her plasma once a week to help finance her education.
YouthHope will continue to provide Brandy with moral support, lots of hugs and love, and any other necessities when required.
All of the youth that come to YouthHope are smart, intelligent, and wonderfully talented individuals in their own unique ways. Unfortunately, many of them have experienced horrific childhoods and unspeakable upbringings. All of the youth have individual stories and struggles. The story below was written by one of our youth. He is an extremely bright and talented young man as is evident from the story he wrote below. He desperately wants to attend college and further his education and writing skills. YouthHope case managers are working diligently trying to get him into a local junior college. Please consider making a donation to YouthHope today so that we can continue to provide much needed services to this young man and the many more like him.
I was sad. Lying on my bed angry at how life was. Things being decided for me that I had no control of. A destiny of chaotic misery and non-consensual mutilation. I began to breathe harder when my head collapsed and the tears of years of pain began to flow. The flow of my sad rhythmic sobs changed pace, and I began to cry, smiling. So sad, I saw how funny this all was, so laughter and moans started leaking out of me simultaneously; each trying to fight to become more powerful. My nose was running and I could see then, how nasty I was, slimy and grotesque, childish and broken. Drooling… how pitiful, gnarled, and withering. Mad laughter screamed out of my head into a physical, quiet, tearing, chuckle. I saw my red cheeks and red eyes and then, the devil inside of me.
It laughed insanely and I thought of my mother. For the first time in years I said, in my head, that I missed her. Not her presence, but her mind. The mind that was taken away at no particular time. I hated that always. Though I never admitted it to myself because I never got to say good by, she never had a moment of leaving, she simply faded slowly out of touch, and I simply lost contact with the thing that used to be whole. Then the crying, red cheeked devil looked at me, and I realized how easily it could become my mother. The laughter made me choke at the thought of how contorted this all was. How insane I was. How I was the devil. How this could be hereditary and it scared me, but not as much as the creature I now saw myself as. It stopped soon after, I knew I could repress this moment easily.
I saw the cutest cricket, hiding in plain sight. Hoping it could sneak through the shadows of the night, to feast on the only riches it could ever find in its life. It reminded me of myself, turned, facing a white wall, always just trying to look on the bright-side, trying to go unnoticed by the giant of its future. The booming, raging, demon-god that controlled what happened to it. I approached it, it crawled slowly away from me, hiding from its destiny. Or trying. I grabbed at it, and it avoided the first strike, hitting a mirror by my door. It was dizzy now, confused as to what was happening, why it was happening. It jumped again and hit my hand, as if to try to face, head on, it’s certain fate, though this too didn’t work. It bounced off and landed on the ground tired but still fighting. It stared at me, and I stared blankly back, emotionless. It however was so lively, so full of feeling. I grabbed at it once more but this time it didn’t try to hop, or to ram, it simply gave itself to me. I turned on my electric lamp, the ones where you can see the electricity jolting out of a center wire deep inside. It saw Zeus turn on the divine lightning, it was breathing fast so I could see its exoskeleton expand and contract. The pace grew faster the longer I held it. The innocent cricket, the symbol of luck, it was to me a skeleton, and I was to it a beast. We both saw what we both were at once, and it flicked its legs laboriously.
I placed a penny atop the bright evil lamp. A drop of water, under the penny, and above the lamp. The cricket was scared, I moved it without trouble toward the penny, until the lightning licked aggressively at the cricket’s legs. It tried to run, and every time its feet touched the ground which was the penny conducting electricity through the lamp, every time the poor soul tried to get some traction, it burned a little inside. Its razor feet were now smoking but it was still alive. I could smell its agony. Each flick of unforgiving lightning burnt off the little hairs they use to climb. Until I let it sit upon the penny, it was in pain but still living and as long as it didn’t move it wouldn’t burn anymore. One of his back legs was completely unattached, lying near him on the lamp. The other leg was stiff and straightened, completely useless, dragging behind, there was no hope for the creature. Either creature. It crawled off the penny and burned once more. Jolting in pain, it collapsed and fell from the lamp, engulfed by the grayness of my bathroom counter. He looked at me once more, seeming like he wanted to leave this horrid place as much as he now wanted to die. He would regardless, with the injuries being as they were. I stared at him sadly, he was in despair. We gazed at each other, I looked at him full of emotion, I wanted him to come back from ambivalence, to re-stitch the fabric of time, of the wrongs I had done to him. He starred at me now, emotionless.
I breathed harder smelling the smoke of his burnt, non-consensually mutilated body. He was crawling with what remained of his four partially useful legs and the fifth dragged behind holding him back. He was crawling toward my sink without realizing it. He was in pain, crawling toward blackness. I was in pain, doing the same thing. I watched him fall into the sink, limply. His fifth leg came off during the fall. His body fell loosely to the hard wet surface below, and rolled helplessly until he finally stopped. He was looking down into the pipe. The esoteric depths calling for him. Him now, so broken, he almost seemed willing to answer this call. He and I watched the sad sink, drip…drip…drip, into the hallow, black, rusted, drain. I watched him breathing, his chest expanding, and contracting. Slower now, expanding with struggle, and contracting hectically off rhythm. He was trying to find a reason not to stop. He wouldn’t find it though. This was the final stage. The place my life had never quite made me go through, only taste briefly.
He twitched. Slipping down but still holding on to a piece of rust near the surface of the pipe. I noticed his legs were all burnt about half way off, and the hairs that could have kept him grasping better were all black and seared. He was watching me still. I saw his innocence, and this is where we differed, I was no longer innocent. I was the bug, and he was the demon-god, laying pain on my deserving soul. He held on for what remained of his dear simple life. I reached out to save him, to undo all that was to late to be forgiven. He was facing up, looking toward the heavens. I looked seven inches above him. Drip.
The water droplet from the faucet above hit him knocking him downward. The man was engulfed by blackness, no white wall, no grey countertop, just black.
I washed my hands to drown him peacefully, and the longer I washed, the dirtier I felt. I felt my breath expanding and contracting. I turned the water on cold, and felt my body burning inside. I was holding on, but I needed a reason. I knew I wouldn’t find one though. I looked up and heard chirping. His brothers laughing insanely, full of sadness.
The sadness fell upon me, and I felt the cold touch of my black tunnel rising. Realizing now it was I who was falling. The tortured, mad, insect fell into the drain. Drowning, falling, crying and smiling, I fell into the cold black abyss.
-Little Ant’s Winter
Each month we like to share a story about one of the youth we work with. Below is an update to a previous story of a youth who has overcome great hurdles in her young life. Thanks to encouragement and services from YouthHope and others she is moving forward and has great possibilities ahead. Below is her original story….
When I was little, the state decided my parents were unfit to raise me. Instead of putting me in foster care, though, I was moved around between family members and friends. I’ve lived with a lot of different people. When I was in third grade, I lived with an uncle and cousins who were pretty laid back. They were drunk most of the time. Sometimes when they were drunk, they would burn me with cigarettes, but other than that, they were good to me. When I was twelve, I moved to Florida and lived with my grandparents for a while. That was the happiest place I lived as a kid. My grandparents really loved me. It was also with my grandparents that I discovered my passion for horses. I learned to ride and became a certified horse trainer. My grandparents’ health started to fail, though, and by the time I was fourteen, I had to move back home to California to live with my mom again.
My mom is bipolar and addicted to every type of prescription drug you can think of. Her boyfriend uses, too. I couldn’t stand being in the house with my mom—we would get into violent arguments—so I ran away. At age 14 I was homeless and alone. Sometimes I slept in the park with a couple other friends. Usually, though, I was able to sleep on couches at friends’ houses and no one suspected I was homeless. I kept myself clean so I wouldn’t arouse suspicion at school.
While I was homeless, I started messing around with drugs. I took whatever was given to me. Thankfully, I didn’t do drugs for long. One night, a friend of mine gave me a little pill after I had already taken some other drugs and my body went crazy. I remember feeling so strange. It was scary. I woke up the next day and I didn’t remember how I had gotten there! That incident really scared me and made me realize that drugs weren’t a good option.
When I was about fifteen, I met my boyfriend Aaron. I moved in with him and his grandmother. We had our own place and our own furniture, thanks to some help from YouthHope. I stopped going to school for a while, but Heidi helped me get back into school. This last summer, I took part in the internship that YouthHope offered so I could get some work experience and learn about getting a job. Now I’m really serious about finishing high school with good grades, finding a job, and eventually going to college to become a veterinarian. I want to specialize in horses. Most people probably think it is weird for a seventeen year old to worry about paying bills on top of normal worries about schoolwork and getting good grades. I’m working hard to make sure my life is going to be something very different from my parents’.
This young woman continues to move forward and is now living with a family. She attends high-school and is doing very well with a B average. She has taken part in the YMCA Circus for the past two years and loves it. She will be volunteering to help younger kids in the circus this year. In addition she was just approved to volunteer at the Redlands Animal Shelter and has worked part-time as a wedding server.
YouthHope has contributed to this youths’ success by providing the following services:
Working with the RUSD to get her re-enrolled in high-school.
Providing buss passes so that she can get back and forth to school.
Enrollment in Job Internship Program.
Find employment as a wedding server.
Access to a Food Handlers Certificate (part of our job training program).
Letters of Recommendation.
Enrolled in the YMCA Circus Program
Resumes for employment opportunities.
Assistance with documents and finger printing for volunteering.
Lots of unconditional love and hugs.
We are confident that this young woman will achieve her goals and will become a self-sufficient educated adult that permanently exits street life.
Christy started coming to YouthHope back in December of 2009 when YouthHope first started the ‘Shoes for Christmas, Hope for a Lifetime’ shoe program. Christy’s mother is a Schizophrenic who never leaves the house. Christy and her sister both had to drop out of school to help take care of their mother. The family rarely had enough food to eat, and the girls were always hungry. Christy came to YouthHope looking for love, understanding, and help. In a tiny, whispered voice, Christy let YouthHope case managers know that she and her sister were hungry all of the time. They also didn’t have any necessities like undergarments or warm clothes. YouthHope case managers were able to take Christy and her sister grocery shopping and buy them hygiene items and clothes.
During one of these shopping trips, Heidi Mayer told Christy about her plans to host the ‘Shoes for Christmas, Hope for a Lifetime’ shoe program for Christmas that year. Christy became very quiet and said that she had NEVER received a present before, ever.
As the holidays approached and YouthHope staff gathered the new shoes and wrapped them, Christy continued to attend YouthHope gatherings frequently. When the day of the Christmas party was held, Heidi noticed that Christy was off by herself. Heidi went to check on Christy and ask her if she was alright. Christy told Heidi that this was the very first gift she had ever received and she couldn’t believe that she had a brand new pair of shoes! She said it was one of the happiest days she had ever had!
Christy proudly wore her new shoes every day. This year, Christy will be receiving her 4th pair of Christmas Shoes from YouthHope. We are happy to report that with YouthHope’s help, Christy is studying for her GED certificate and will take the test soon. YouthHope was also able to help Christy find a job this holiday season at Kohls. Christy is working hard during the night shift and very proud of her new job. When Christy first came to YouthHope 4 years ago, she was hungry, needed clothes, and had dropped out of school. YouthHope has provided Christy with love, hugs, much needed food and clothing, and access to the Continued Education and Job Training Programs. We are so proud of Christy and her success in moving forward. Heidi, the staff, and many YouthHope volunteers will continue to provide support and services to Christy as she continues to move forward and becomes self-sufficient and exits life on the streets.