It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Christmas is a magical time of year. There’s great music, family time, presents, and joy.
This isn’t always the case for our youth. Many of them dread this time of year because they don’t have a place to spend Christmas and they don’t get presents or a good meal or even love.
This is why we started our annual Christmas party. We make sure that every youth gets a new pair of shoes because many times its the only present our youth receive. We start getting youth to sign up for shoes in October to ensure that every youth signs up.
This past month as youth were signing up, one of our youth kept looking down as he was waiting to sign up. One of our staff went over and asked if everything was ok, he pointed down and said “still got them on”. They looked down and the youth still had on the black vans from last year. They were faded, the shoe strings were no longer white, and you could see his socks through the hole at the top, but he was still wearing them.
When he pointed out his worn out Christmas shoes, he wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed that he had the same shoes, but he was proud. His face lit up. He knew he was loved.
Our youth often get looked down on as they skateboard around town, or hang out in places that they shouldn’t, or because they smell or ask for money, but for this one night at Christmas, our youth feel so much love from their community. They know that people have given their time and money to go purchase the shoes.
We cant wait for our youth to open their special shoes this year, especially this one particular youth. We cant wait to see the joy on his face as he laces them up and puts them on his feet, knowing that someone remembered him this Christmas season and will have a reminder all year long that he matters and that people believe in him.
Thank you for making our youth feel loved and cared for!
A Place to Grow
Growing up, I moved a lot. We didn’t stay in a single place for longer than a few months. We would get evicted because we wouldn’t be able to pay the rent that month. Along with not having a stable place to live, we also never had much food in the house.
It was hard. I never made any friends because the minute that I found once, we would be moving again. So eventually I just stopped trying. I didn’t see a point in it.
When we moved to Redlands my freshman year of high school, I figured we would only be here for a few months so I kept to myself. I would take the bus to school, keep earbuds in all day listening to music, and go home on the bus and try not to talk to anybody.
One day I was riding the bus, and a guy from school told me about YouthHope. He told me there was free food and it was a chill place to hang out.
I only had to show up one time to feel loved. Heidi gave me a hug the minute I walked in.
I started going every day after school. I started forming real friendships that I really wanted to last.
In the past 4 years I have gained more than friends while being a part of YouthHope. I have gained people skills, work skills, leadership skills, job training skills, motivation, drive, and support!
I am now in college, have a part time job and a dream of becoming a police officer. I wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for the people at YouthHope!
YouthHope provides so much to anyone who walks through their doors! I’m so thankful for them!
Where Do I Go From Here?
Have you ever felt invisible? Like people look right through you? They don’t see you screaming for help or they don’t see you running from your life?
This is me. I have struggled my whole life to have a loving family, a stable home, a safe space. I don’t any of these things in my life and it seems like things just continue to worsen.
In my younger years, I lived with my mom and step dad. My mom had a drinking problem which turned into an anger problem. When she was mad she would get physical. She would hit me and hit me and hit me. My Aunt turned her into CPS and I was removed from the home in my early teens.
I moved from foster home to foster home. There was no family that I fit into and my social worker was getting tired of causing me so many problems. The last time that she picked me up to take me to my next foster home, she stopped to get gas and I jumped out of the car. She didn’t chase me or even try to stop me. She just watched.
Even though I was so glad to be our of the state’s care, I now was homeless. As a young girl on the streets, I had put myself in one of the most dangerous situations. I was quickly found by a man who promised to take care of me as long as I did what he wanted.
This has led to months of terrible abuse. I heard about YouthHope and ran to the Drop-In Center. I talked to Heidi and she instantly started making phone calls.
Heidi asked me what I want to do. Where do I want to go? And honestly, I didn’t have an answer. I don’t know what I want. I just know I don’t want to stay where I am.
So at this point I am still deciding. YouthHope has provided so many options for me and I just need to make sure that the decision I make is the best one for me.
For now, YouthHope has me in a safe place until I make a more permanent decision. I’m so thankful for YouthHope and the hope and safety they have provided me!
I’m Outta Here
I guess I should back up and explain myself a little. I don’t really know where to start. Do I start back when I was a little boy and my mom would yell at me and tell me how worthless I was? Or do I start at my 7th birthday where my dad got me a brand new bike and my mom stole it from my room and sold it for drugs? Regardless of where my story starts, it started with heartbreak.
My mom left us and wanted nothing to do with me, my brother, or my dad. She made it clear that I was unwanted and worth nothing and left. I think that’s why as I got older, I had such bad self-esteem. Her voice always echoed in my head and I couldn’t shake it off.
I got involved in drug use pretty early, even though my dad was stable and made the best life that he could for us. When I turned 18, he told me that I couldn’t continue living at home while doing drugs.
I chose drugs over him. Just like my mom.
I found YouthHope years ago. I was a regular. Always around and getting what I could. My life was like this for 8 years until 2 months ago. I was involved in some pretty sketchy activities with some bad people. Everything turned bad and the next thing I knew, all of my so-called friends wanted me dead. I was hiding behind a dumpster when I knew that I was done with this life. I made a decision right then that I needed help.
I ran to YouthHope and they stopped everything they were doing to help me.
They got me a bus ticket to San Francisco. They contacted a friend who would let me stay at their place for a week while I got into rehab. They took me to get food and drove me to the bus station.
Within that month, I admitted myself into an out-patient rehab, found a job, and this great apartment that I’m now living in.
I’m not totally out of the woods yet, but being in a new city, with new opportunities, I cant help but feel like I will succeed here!
I Need Help
As I sit and write this, I look up and notice my surroundings. I’m in a one bedroom apartment in the bad part of town, there’s 5 people that live here and many visitors throughout the day. I haven’t slept in a room by myself my whole life. There’s trash everywhere, no food in the fridge, and the curtains are pulled to keep our secrets in.
I live with my sister and brothers. I’m not even 18 yet and we haven’t seen my mom since I was a little girl. I’m the second oldest and the only reason we have this tiny apartment is because my boyfriend’s mom has given us 6 months worth of rent because she feels sorry for us.
This all started because I was born into a family of gang members. My mom, dad, uncles, aunts are all members of a well known gang. My parents abandoned me and my siblings at a very young age.
This caused for a rough upbringing. We’ve bounced around from friends to different family members. I’ve been to school on and off since I was 5, but no one ever told me that I needed to go or would help me register whenever we moved, so I have missed several years of school.
We started going to YouthHope after my brother heard about it from a friend. I didn’t expect much when we went, but I was wrong.
Everyone was so helpful right when I got there. I was asked if I needed help and I said YES! I am not shy about my problems and I’m so glad I opened up to Heidi.
The first thing YouthHope wanted to help me with was getting me re-enrolled in school. Heidi made the point that if I want to move out and stop this cycle of poverty, I need to make my education a priority. So I listened and later that week, Judy took me and signed me up for school.
I also needed to see several different doctors and within a week. I had appointments for everything.
I still have a long way to go before I can say that I’m self-sufficient, but I’ve come so far and I know where I’m headed. I have big dreams and I’m not letting my past define who I will become.
YouthHope, thank you for helping me and being my support!
Maybe I Can Start Living My Life
I was born into a broken family. My mom was a drug addict. her drug of choice was heroin. I can’t even recall a time where she was clean. It has always been a rollercoaster of her high on drugs or her coming off of drugs only to get high again.
My dad is an abuser. He beats my mom and I all the time. I’ve been physically abused, mentally abused, and sexually abused by him.
As I got older, I realized that so many of my life choices were a result of how I was raised and the decisions that my parents made.
I started dating my current boyfriend a year ago. It started as such a great relationship. He would listen to my problems and he let me move in with him shortly after we met so I wouldn’t have to live with my parents.
I’m not sure when it started, but before I knew it, he started beating me. At first it only happened when he was drinking, but lately everything sets him off. I leave a cup on the counter and he hits me. I stay out too late with my friends and he screams and hits me till I bleed.
I found YouthHope from a coworker. Me and my boyfriend started going there to get help.
After last week, when my boyfriend knocked me out, I went to YouthHope looking for help.
I found Heidi and told her everything. She told me that I deserve better. She asked me if I’m done with him.
And I’ve been thinking about that ever since. I’ve never known any different.
I hope I’m done?
Maybe I can start living my life. I want to go to school. I want to major in science. I have dreams. I have goals.
But I’m scared.
I don’t know if I have the will power to leave. This is all I have known. Abuse is all I have endured. Would I accept love without abuse?
I hope so?
Thank you YouthHope for giving me the courage to leave. Thank you for being there to catch me when I need help.
Unity. Written by one of our youth in memory of Rueben
Borrowing a pair of lungs
When its hard to breathe
Because evenings like these
Are the long ones
But we are linked together
By fingers, and soft palms
We are reminded of love
That was shared
In sweet songs
Songs that he loved,
And we loved them too
It’s hard to not search for
The bottom of a bottle
And chase it with water
Because we remember
How he’d embrace
The bitter things in life
But it never broke his smile
And we must never break ours
For the remembrance of a garage
On a hot springs day
Or the sound of his guitar
We must not lose ourselves
In losing someone
But let it hold our ankles
Down to the earth
And call it home,
Though many barely know the word
We must hear-
And be heard
Because that’s what he would have wanted
Let us not be haunted
Because there is music and friends
To fill the hole in our chest
But leave a cavity in our hearts
Hearts that aren’t empty
But leaves a spot for light
To shine through
It lives in me,
And all of you
We can see a light at the end
Of our cardiac tunnels
And broken veins for the knowledge that tomorrow
Is another day
So I’ll take a shot for him,
And one for his brothers
I’ll pour the rest in the soil,
And chase it with water
Because we all know
How he’d embrace the bitter things in life,
Chase it with water,
So that new life can grow
For its not the ending of a soul
I see it everywhere I go
Because it lives
In all of you
I’m The Only One
I live in a nightmare. I don’t feel safe anywhere. I have a constant string of drug dealers coming into my house at all hours of the day. They are here to talk to my cousins or my dad. They knock on my windows at night. They go through my stuff when I’m not there. Its a real life nightmare.
My grandma who owns the house where this madness happens has tried everything to get it under control. She’s kicked out my dad, my cousins, the random druggies that come through, but they keep coming back. She’s older and is unable to take control of her home.
I have seen the terrible side of addiction and I NEVER want to live that kind of life.
That’s why I go to YouthHope. I know that they will help me stay on track and help me in the areas where my family can’t help me.
I started receiving bus passes from YouthHope a few years back. Before I was getting bus passes, I would miss so much school because my ride would depend on who was strung out from drugs or if my grandma was able to leave the house to drop me off.
Now that I get monthly bus passes, I don’t have to rely on anybody to get me to school. I’m now on track to graduate this year.
I attend YouthHope’s weekly Skills Class. These classes help me learn about things that I wasn’t taught. Like how to eat right, how to exercise, coping skills, etc.
I also receive medical help from YouthHope. The Case Managers take me to the doctors any time I need something. Whether I don’t feel good, or I need preventive medicine, they help me make the appointments, make sure I have the right type of insurance, and then drive me to and from the appointments.
I still live in the house with my dad and grandma and cousins, but I now know that I will be able to move out next year.
Once I graduate, I will be out and I know that I will be successful. YouthHope has taught me so much and even though I’m the only drive one in my family, I will succeed.
Thank you YouthHope! I wouldn’t be able to rise above without your help!
This was our goal when we met Max. Max came to us very discouraged. He was homeless, far away from anyone that he knew, and wanted help.
We initially tried helping him by giving him food, clothes, and helping him with his resume. We figured that if he got a stable job then he would be able to save money and get on his feet.
After working with him for a few weeks, we realized that this path wasn’t going to work for him. He didn’t have the motivation or the drive to find work here. After spending more time with him, we found out that he wanted family. He had moved from Utah to Colorado with his girlfriend a few years back. They broke up and he hitch hiked his way to California where he didn’t know anyone.
He came out to California out of sadness and desperation for a new life. He was so upset about his breakup that he thought that anywhere would be better than where he currently was.
Once we found out that family is what he wanted most, we knew that we needed to reunify him with his family in Utah. We teamed up with the Redlands Police Department and RCRC (Redlands Charitable Resource Coalition) to get Max to his family.
The Redlands Police Department and RCRC did not waste any time. They were at YouthHope the next day asking Max about his family and getting in touch with his parents back in Utah. Once his parents agreed to take him, RCRC bought him a bus ticket the next morning.
They picked up Max and took him to the bus station and waited with him until the bus showed up.
Max is now back with his parents where he can begin rebuilding his life and becoming self-sufficient.
Thank you Redlands PD and RCRC for working with us and our youth to make sure that youth are reunited with family members and that one less person is on the streets.
Our hope is that we will continue to see not only youth, but every person that has family be reunified.
I Will Rise Above
I am a foster kid. I was in foster care my whole life. I never actually made it out of foster care. No one wanted me. As I got older, I knew what I could say to get out of foster home I didn’t like. So I jumped from foster home to foster home until I turned 18 and aged out. Then I was left on the street.
My mom was a drug addict and I was told from a young age that my dad died. When I aged out of foster I learned that my dad was actually alive and I was determined to find him.
I eventually found him and moved out to the city where he lived. I found out quickly that my dad wanted nothing to do with me. He told everyone that I wasn’t his son and he refused to see me or talk to me while I lived by him.
I ended up moving to Redlands and living on the streets. I got on some government assistance and decided this is how I was going to live.
As I lived on the streets, I started seeing that I didn’t want to live like this forever. I had a new girlfriend and we wanted a better life for ourselves.
That’s when we started going to YouthHope. They immediately started helping me by feeding us, clothing us, and providing options for jobs or education.
I decided that I wanted to have a job and work for my money. I was done living on government assistance. I didn’t need it and I wanted to make a honest living.
Heidi found me a job training to attend at YouthHope. On the day of the training, I showed up an hour early. Everyone was shocked, but I was taking this seriously and I wouldn’t let anything come in the way of me achieving my dreams.
Now I have two jobs, I have stopped getting government assistance, and I have a place to live.
Do I still struggle? Yes. Do I make a bunch of money? No. But I am better today than I was yesterday. I have a future that looks bright and if I keep working hard, then I know that next year I might have some money to put away for savings. And in a few years, I will have enough to live in a better place.
The possibilities are endless. Without YouthHope, none of this would have been possible, They believed in me and gave me the tools I needed! Thank you YouthHope!
When we can’t help, they will
It was Thanksgiving. We were serving our usual Thanksgiving meal at our drop in center. This isn’t the most fun event we do at YouthHope. It’s not a party or even a celebration, its more of a last resort.
Our youth will try and go to ANY thanksgiving get together before they come to YouthHope. They would go to a friends house, a family member they hate, a distant family member, anywhere they can find before coming to our meal.
They want to feel wanted. They want to feel needed. They want to know that they have somewhere to go. This is why they try to find other places.
So when they show up to YouthHope they are hurting. They feel lonely, they feel hurt, they feel unloved. So we spend the day reminding them that they are loved, cared for, and have a bright future.
One young lady came in this past Thanksgiving and was very upset. Her family didn’t want her, she had a boyfriend abusing her, and she had nowhere to go.
She was dropped off in Redlands by her old boss and was told to “figure it out”. She found her way to YouthHope looking for help.
We fed her, talked to her, tried calling her family, and looked for emergency shelters where she could stay the weekend until the holiday was over. Nothing was working. Her family ignored her, shelters were closed for the weekend, and we needed her to get away from her boyfriend.
Heidi gathered some of our core YouthHope youth and sat them down. She explained that they needed to keep her safe through the weekend so we could find her a more permanent shelter after the holiday. They agreed and took her under their wings. They stayed with her, helped her find food, kept her safe as they slept on the streets, and returned her safely after the weekend.
She was able to catch a bus to Florida where distance relatives agreed to take her.
Although sleeping on the street for the weekend wasn’t the ideal place for a young lady, our youth came together and protected her until we were able to help her.
We are so thankful for the way our youth help each other. We are family!