Youth Stories 2012

January 25, 2012
If you have ever donated funds to YouthHope you may be wondering just how your money was spent. Let us share a story with you so you can see exactly how your donations have made a difference. We have shared one young man’s remarkable journey with you since October 2011.
Tom was the young man who had admitted to making bad choices in his life and who desperately wanted to be free from his heroin addiction. He was tired of being alone and on the streets at night so he made the decision to quit heroin on his own. Tom participated in the YouthHope camping trip which, he stated, saved his life. It was the same weekend that he had decided to quit heroin and he climbed that mountain while suffering the painful withdrawals of heroin. Tom has been free of heroin since that time but his life has not been without a few battles. He realized that he had an addictive personality and soon became addicted to using alcohol and marijuana to replace the heroin.  Let us give you a little background about Tom’s journey.
On October 3, 2011 Tom tried to commit suicide by overdosing on heroin. He could not overcome his addiction any longer and he decided it was time for his addiction to overcome him. On October 4, 2011 Tom woke up. His attempt had failed and he was devastated. That day he was with a friend who was going to an enrollment appointment with Heidi so Tom decided to tag along. His day turned into much more than tagging along and by the end of the day he made the decision to turn his life around. On that first day with Heidi he rode along to CET, a vocation school that teaches welding among other things. Tom decided that CET and welding, were a good fit for him and he made it his goal to become enrolled in the program. He needed help though because he was still homeless and recovering from drugs and alcohol. He continued to ride along with Heidi to her other appointments so that he would not be tempted to use. He sat through countless medical appointments and court appointments just so he would not have to be alone in his time of need. In this time Heidi also made sure that Tom obtained his identification card and social security card so that he could enroll in CET. Heidi also made sure that Tom received medical attention because he had done so much damage to his body from drug use. Tom still needed the most basic items to reach his goal of attending CET: food and shelter. Heidi was able to purchase him lunch each day but he would still go hungry at night. At the beginning of January, Tom found shelter at a friend’s house but he had to provide groceries to have the roof over his head. Heidi has been able to step in and provide groceries every other week and she has been able to educate Tom on healthy eating habits while they are grocery shopping. Over the next few weeks Heidi will be helping Tom find a job so he can begin providing his own groceries and learn how to be self-sufficient.
Tom was enrolled in CET at the beginning of January and has been attending for a full week. He receives bus passes from YouthHope so that he can make it from Yucaipa to San Bernardino each day. He is so excited about his classes and he hopes to finish before the 9 month period. YouthHope was able to get Tom new boots so he could begin welding in class. YouthHope was also able to purchase him the necessary school supplies. Your donations made this possible. They provided the groceries so that Tom would not have to worry about where his next meal was coming from and so he would have a place to sleep at night. Your donations provide the bus passes to get Tom to and from his school each day. They provided Tom with the clothes he needed to participate in his program. Donations also provided the gas YouthHope needed to provide transportation for Tom. Your donations also made it possible for Heidi to spend so much time with Tom and offer him the support he needed. Tom is not the only one that YouthHope supports in these ways. Each week we do the same for 5-6 other youth. Your donations are making a huge impact in the lives of the homeless and at-risk youth in the community of Redlands. We cannot afford to give up on these youth. There are more who come to YouthHope each week for help because they want to be self-sufficient adults and they are unsure of how to accomplish that task. YouthHope is in need of a vehicle so that we can help these youth. If YouthHope was provided with another vehicle we could double the amount of youth who receive these services. Through your financial contributions or through the donation of a vehicle you can save the lives of 6 homeless youth who are in need of love, support, and friendship.

February 7, 2012
Throughout the course of the month, Heidi, our Executive Director, will speak to various groups who support YouthHope. One of the groups that continuously offers support is the group Zonta. After Heidi had spoken with the group one member shared a story from a parent’s perspective. This particular parent had a teenage son that was headed in a bad direction. He was failing classes, getting into trouble, and hanging out with the wrong crowd. One afternoon the young man was headed out and the mom asked him where he was headed. He simply replied “church.” That same week the young man was headed out again and the mother asked again where he was headed, “church” was the reply. After several weeks of the young man heading to “church” the mom began to notice a difference in her son. He was doing better in his classes, he was no longer getting into trouble, and he was headed down a good path.
After some investigation the mom discovered that her young son had been attending the YouthHope meal times at the First Presbyterian Church. She was so thankful that this program had saved her son from a life filled with heartache and hardship. Heidi was delighted to hear that a young man was saved from the street life just because he attended the YouthHope meal times, or what he called “church.”
It is our hope that many youth faced with tough decisions brought on by peer pressure would all follow this young man’s example and choose positive influences. Many of the youth who come to us, come from extremely broken homes where drug abuse is prevalent. Their parents are setting poor examples of how to live a healthy, happy life. The youth are faced with the reality of choosing their parents, or a life free from addiction and abuse.
A young lady that we have had the pleasure to spend time with came from such a home. She was raised by a single mother who was addicted to meth and who was mentally and physically abusive. “Peggy” had made the decision, before ever having met YouthHope, that she would not be like her mother. She was going to be successful by going to college, graduating, and living a drug free life. Peggy was our loudest and most adamant spokesperson for why kids shouldn’t do drugs. She would become furious with her friends who were on drugs and tell them it was the dumbest decision they could make. Peggy suffered from depression and anxiety because of the way she had been brought up. She had always felt that she was unloved and ended up in an abusive relationship with a boy because it was all she had ever known. She remained steadfast in her goal of graduating and began attending Crafton Community College despite the lack of support she received from her mother. She would come to YouthHope for food, friendship, and support. YouthHope would offer her bus passes to school, groceries, and a shoulder to cry on when the fighting at home was too much to bear. It seemed that Peggy’s life was really turning around in September 2011 because her mom had made the decision to get sober. Life was going great. Just several months into her sobriety, Peggy’s mother succumbed to her addiction and began using meth again. Not only did she begin using but she began using the day after Peggy’s 18th birthday on October 31. Peggy could no longer stand the abuse. She decided it was time to end her life and end the pain. She tried to commit suicide three times, and three times she failed. Nothing would take away the hurt, not even going to the one place she loved the most, school. Her boyfriend told her he had medication that would take all of the pain away. Peggy was desperate. She tried what he offered and her life was changed forever. What her boyfriend had given her was Heroin, and she was hooked from the first time. She stopped attending YouthHope meal times. When she arrived at a meal time at the end of January, Heidi knew something terrible had happened to Peggy.
Last Thursday Peggy showed up high from the effects of Heroin. It was devastating to Heidi and to all of the volunteers who had worked with Peggy to see what her life had become. She was unable to stay awake, and when she was awake she was throwing up and crying because she had disappointed us. All we could do was hold her hair while she vomited and console her and reassure her that we loved her. This past weekend we talked with Peggy and tried to help her get clean. When a person is trying to get clean from Heroin it is like having the worst bout of flu symptoms. Their body hurts from the top of their head to the soles of their feet. They vomit, and often lose control of their bowel movements. This is what Peggy had to endure over the course of the weekend. She was not strong enough to resist Heroin because it was hurting her so much physically to try and get clean. On Saturday Peggy took enough Heroin on Saturday to “kill an elephant.” We thank God that her attempt did not work. It has been devastating to see such a beautiful, talented, and driven young woman deteriorate to such a state in the course of just 3 short months. It has been heartbreaking to see how powerful this addiction is over her young life. Peggy wants help getting off the drug but she has to want it so bad that she can endure the physical effects of withdrawals. Our doctor, Carla Toms, can help Peggy but Peggy must be willing to meet with the doctor or Heidi every day. We do not know where Peggy’s story will end. We are hoping that Peggy can reach deep inside her soul and find the strength to overcome this addiction to become the person she had always dreamed of becoming. We will continue to keep you posted on Peggy and please pray and hope that she can find the strength she needs to be free from this prison that is heroin addiction.

February 22, 2012
Peggy was showing improvement with her recovery. She had been receiving treatment help from the street doctors at YouthHope for several weeks. It saddens us to inform you that she has now gone back to drugs and her abusive boyfriend. We fear we may lose her forever because of the hold this drug has over her life. YouthHope will continue to hope she accepts help, please continue to hope with us. There are the youth who are able to overcome the power of addiction which gives us hope for those who have not found that strength.
One young man has been an inspiration to us over the last month. This young man was known for his size and strength. He had lived on the streets for some time because he had fallen in love with a girl who was severely addicted to heroin, and who lived on the streets because of her addiction. They had a very volatile relationship and they would fight constantly. But Tony loved her and he did not want to leave her to be overtaken by her addictions, or face life on the streets alone. Before we met “Tony” he was a very angry young man who had spent time in jail because of his temper. He thought the whole world was out to get him and he was going to put up a fight against whoever came near him. When Tony began spending time with YouthHope others began seeing a different young man emerge. He became a calmer, kinder person. He allowed us into his life and shared that he was on the streets because he had become addicted to heroin, and because he wanted to be with his girlfriend who he loved so very much. Tony shared that he had a mother who he loved very much, but that he was afraid of her. She was a harsh woman who would yell at him when he made mistakes. But she always accepted her son home after he would disappear on a drug binge. The volatile relationship between Tony and his girlfriend finally came to an end, and Tony was able to see his situation with some clarity. He realized how addicted he had become and he wanted help. He tried several treatments with our street doctors, but had to eventually admit that his addiction was too strong for this type of treatment. Tony decided he wanted to go to a rehabilitation facility and asked YouthHope to find one for him. We did just that and informed Tony that he had to show up at a specified date and time to enter into the program we found for him. He missed his appointment and we found him passed out on the streets. When he came to the YouthHope dinner that night he asked when he was going to get to leave for rehab. Heidi informed Tony that it was too late to go to the rehab facility we had picked out for him and that he would have to wait. He was adamant that he couldn’t wait another day he had to go that night! His only option was a rehabilitation facility that Set Free Church conducted. It would be with adults who were much worse off than Tony, and Tony was only 18. Tony did not even bat an eye, he wanted to go. That night we took him to the Set Free Rehab was the beginning of a new life for Tony. It has been just about a month and he is doing extremely well in the program. His mother called Heidi the other day and thanked YouthHope for saving her son’s life. She remarked at how the rehab program and YouthHope had changed her son’s life for the better. From Tony we have learned that we cannot lose hope. We must continue to be there for these youth, offer support when it is needed, and instill some hope into their lives.

March 7, 2012
The churches in the community have always been some of our biggest supporters. They have combined their resources to make sure YouthHope can continue to support the homeless youth. Now, the youth are seeing that the churches are there to help them, and they are finding their place within the churches. Tony, from the February 22 story, continues to do well in the Set Free Rehab program. As part of the program, Tony is required to spend time studying the Bible so he can teach it to other program participants. He has not resisted this part of the program, and he has actually grown very fond of studying the Bible. Tony is now training to become a mentor to the newest participants of the rehab program. Tony is succeeding because he receives encouragement, housing, food, and acceptance every day from the Set Free program.
Another one of our youth has found his way to church at the Crosswalk Church in Redlands. We spoke of Shawn a year ago, in our February 2011 entries. He was a young man whose mother got him hooked on methamphetamines, and whose step-father had raised him with an iron fist. Shawn was able to get himself clean from the meth, and he was able to enter into an education program at CPC College. He is doing well in his program, and his professors tell Heidi he is receiving all A’s. He began attending Crosswalk Church last month, and he is learning the ins and outs of running the sound equipment and the projector screens. Shawn feels right at home in the church, and he is thankful for a place where he is loved and accepted.
For the youth we assist, change takes time. Both of these young men have been attending YouthHope meal times for over a year. They have received constant support, and encouragement to help them get on their feet. We have seen time and time again that this homeless youth crisis is not an overnight fix. The youth need to really believe that they are loved, and that they have the power to achieve their goals. YouthHope could not help these youth without the support of places like Crosswalk Church and Set Free, and all the other churches who support us, who take in these youth and love them for who they are. It takes a whole community of supporters to instill hope into these young lives, and we are so thankful for all of you who have supported YouthHope. Your efforts have helped 370 youth in the last year! So let’s keep up the good work, and remember, that even though a solution for this problem will take time, we are making a difference in the lives of the homeless youth every day

March 19, 2012
We have been helping one young man quit his addiction to heroin. He has been attending YouthHope for some time now, but he has just begun to let us into his life. “Ben” shared a rather disturbing story with Heidi the other day, and it became apparent why Ben struggles with drug addiction. When Ben was young his parents divorced and his dad re-married. Ben got along well with his step-mother, and he and his older brother became great friends with his new step-brother. When Ben was 15 something unthinkable happened. The happy life he thought he was living was ripped apart by his step-mother’s infidelity. Ben’s father became so irate about his wife’s affair that he lost control and went on a shooting rampage. He discovered who his wife had an affair with and he went to his home armed with a gun. Ben’s father shot the man, and then came looking for his wife. Ben’s step-mother and her 19 year old son were home when they learned of the shooting, and Ben’s step-mother was just beginning to issue a warning to her son not to open the door. She was too late. Her son, an innocent by-stander, opened the door to reveal his horrendous fate. He was shot in the head by Ben’s father, and died. All at once Ben’s life fell apart. He had lost one of his best friends, and his father was the reason for it.
His father did turn himself in the next day, and the step-mother was not harmed, but the internal damage grew roots that day. Ben had no outlet to express his sadness. The matter was not discussed with a licensed counselor, and Ben and his older brother had to learn how to manage the overwhelming sadness on their own. They turned to drugs for relief and both soon became addicted to heroin. Ben’s brother was able to overcome his addiction by attending church regularly, and finding solace within the church. Ben was not able to find comfort in the church, and he has been addicted to drugs ever since. This tragedy occurred four years ago, and Ben is just now receiving the help he needs. Ben’s father showed a complete lack of judgment and character that awful day. He showed his sons that it was okay to let your anger control you and turn their anger into unnecessary violence. No teenager should have to see their parent lose control the way Ben saw his father lose it that horrible day. This event has made such an impact on these young lives, and it has frozen this young man in time. He has not dealt with the emotional ramifications of this event, and it has caused him to turn to drugs to ease the pain. He is taking that first step to healing by trying to become clean from heroin. He is doing well and he comes to visit us each day for support and encouragement. The next step would be to get Ben involved in the YouthHope Youth Training and Education Program so he can begin job searching, and begin to rebuild his life. The ball is in his court now, and all we can do is continue to offer him support and encouragement while he heals.

March 27, 2012
The other day at the YouthHope dinner Heidi met a young woman who was 17 years old. She was brought to YouthHope by a youth pastor from Mentone, who had been acting as a mentor for the girl, “Betty”. At first sight, the first thing Heidi noticed was the girl’s incredible beauty, but when she looked deeper, she could see pain the pain in her eyes. When Heidi began talking with the Betty, she quickly realized this was a young lady whose life had been a series of painful events, but who was determined to survive. Heidi learned that Betty had been abandoned by her father, and could not remember the last time she had seen him. She knew her father was homeless, but she knew no other information than that. Betty shared that she had been severely abused by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, and that her mother eventually relinquished responsibility for her by giving her to Betty’s older sister. Her sister disappeared to L.A. shortly after, and she was forced to live on the streets to avoid abuse. Instead of sleeping on the streets though, Betty began to sell her body to receive shelter each evening. She spent two long years living this way before she met the pastor who brought her to us.
Heidi spent two hours with her, gaining background information, and sharing options with Betty. Heidi informed Betty that she could go to a safe house, but she would have to have child protective services involved, and eventually enter the foster care system. Betty liked the idea of the safe house, but she was fearful to leave her friends and her boyfriend. She asked if they would be able to visit, and Heidi shared they would not be able to. For a young woman to go from taking care of herself, and having full control, to living in a safe house where someone else had control, it felt like she was going to prison. Heidi shared with Betty that it was not ok for her to have taken care of herself for so long. Betty should have had someone to take care of her, and guide her, and love her. Instead she received abuse and neglect which is not what a child deserves. Heidi explained to Betty that she still needed to be cared for, and if she went to the safe house that is exactly what she would receive. Heidi had to make numerous phone calls to get Betty into a facility, but she was able to find a place for her at Operation SafeHouse. Betty decided to go “home” that night to say good-bye to her friends and to her boyfriend. By the end of the weekend, Betty was on her was to an Operation SafeHouse facility, where they had saved a spot for her.
We hope that Betty will realize that she is worthy of love and care, and the she will get to realize her dream of becoming either a mechanic or an astrologer. We hope that for once in her young life, Betty will finally be able to act like a kid and have someone else look out for her well-being. We know that she will be loved and cared for at Operation Safehouse, and now she is safe from life living on the streets.

April 11, 2012
YouthHope has begun a new project, Crafty Time. We are taking every day items and teaching the kids how to turn it into something creative, and useful. It has proven to be a great way to just hang out, get to know the kids better, and build better relationships with them. The kids have so far made hair accessories and flower vases using materials that we have already at our disposal. Each item will be for sale and funds will go back to supporting programs that help the youth.
This also gives the kids another opportunity to hang out with people who love and care for them, instead of getting involved with the wrong crowd.
During Crafty Time a young man came to see us who we had not seen in six months. The last time we had seen him he was getting into trouble, and hanging around with the wrong crowd. We spoke to his mother, who called us for advice, and we suggested a few ideas to her. She took our advice and now her son is on the right track. He just stopped by to say hello and told us that he has been attending church regularly, and he was doing well in school. The more opportunities we have to hang out with the kids, the better the chances that they will exit street life. If they are constantly being given opportunities to realize their potential, they will begin to build their shattered confidence.