Markus was asked to leave his home in Salt Lake City at age 17 when his family discovered he was gay through a social media post. Because of being “outed” on social media, he experienced bullying and discrimination at school and in his usual social environments. None of his friends’ families would take him in, so he ended up on the street with few resources. After a week on the street, Markus met a young man that was kind and offered him a job. It was easy, he said, to readily accept an opportunity to travel, make some money, and most importantly get away from a hostile existence in the only community he had ever known. The job sounded exciting too! He would travel with a group of 8 other young adults and sell soap door to door. He’d be provided with room and board at a hotel and would make money off of each product he sold. After arriving in Denver, he stayed the first night in a motel room with his entire cohort. In the morning he would be dropped off in a suburb of Denver and walk door to door selling soap. It was more challenging than he thought, and seemed impossible to sell any soap at all. Within a week, Markus was cut from the team. He was told that because he hadn’t sold enough product, he actually owed $450 for the motel room he had shared with 8 others. The van dropped him off in Westminster on the way back to Denver, taking his backpack and iPhone as “collateral” for the debt. Markus made his way to Boulder and found Attention Homes a day later. His story is unfortunately not a rare one. In fact, Markus’ story is only one out of the 185 stories of labor trafficking that Attention Homes saw in 2016.
In late 2010, when Attention Homes’ youth shelter opened, David was one of our first residents. He came to our shelter on New Years Eve, after running away to avoid being put into foster care. He stayed with us for two months until he turned 18. During his time with us we successfully enrolled him in Boulder High School and helped him transition to living independently.
David was able to find independent housing by renting a room. He is still in school and maintains constant communication with our staff. He comes to visit on a regular basis and has given back through volunteering in our programs. He is doing really in school and our staff continues to help him with homework. David also gets help on his homework from our tutor on Sundays. Our staff has been teaching him life skills, such as making a schedule and budgeting.
David graduated from Boulder High School this school year! We are so proud of the accomplishments he’s made and continue to be his support system. David is a great example of how our runaway and homeless youth shelter aids youth in getting back on their feet and into a stable and supported living situation.
Stephanie, Preston, & Veronica
Stephanie, Preston, and Veronica were removed from home for the first (and hopefully only) time last May when they were 14, 15 and 17 years old. Years of conflict and substance use in the home had finally manifested in an incident of physical abuse and Child Protective Services needed to intervene. To these teens, the scariest thing about that terrible night they were removed from home was the idea of being separated from each other. In that context, it was very fortunate there were beds for all three of them at Chase House. “The siblings”, as they became affectionately known to staff, were very close; and the more time staff spent with them, the clearer it became how damaging it would be to separate them.
With the help of McKinney-Vento they were able to continue attending their home school in Longmont while living at Chase House. Staff was able to help them take a break from parenting each other; especially Veronica, who had been doing much of the parenting of her younger siblings at home. The respite from having to act like an adult provided a much needed opportunity for Veronica to engage in school and build stronger relationships with her peers. All three kids engaged in counseling to move through the trauma they had experienced, and stayed on track academically.
While they were living at Chase House, their parents took necessary steps in order for the kids to come home. With extensive support from Attention Homes and wrap around services from the county, the siblings recently went back home, just in time for the holidays. Thankfully, we don’t have to know what might have happened if they were separated.
When Marianna came to The Source we already knew about her home situation since her older brother had utilized our services before. Raised in Boulder County, Marianna was living at home at 18 but failed to graduate high school. Her parents, suffering from extreme financial distress with 3 additional school-aged children, claimed they could no longer afford to care for her. Marianna knew she needed to leave but was reluctant to go. When her father became violent she realized home was no longer an option.
43% of runaway youth reported physical abuse before leaving home.
As a high school dropout at 18, Marianna lacked the practical skills necessary to become immediately self-sufficient. At The Source she was able to re-engage with her education through GED courses.
75% of runaway and homeless youth do not graduate from high school.
Marianna’s future is now bright thanks to the resources she accessed at Attention Homes. She worked with our Employment Counselor and was able to secure a job. With the help of some housing deposit funds from Attention Homes, Marianna and her brother found an apartment together and she proudly finished her GED. Marianna still comes to The Source for continuing education in grammar and professional writing.
Attention Homes’ street outreach staff and volunteers met Melanie and her family on the street. Although her mom had a job their family didn’t have enough money to afford their own place, they were homeless. Melanie’s mom brought her to Attention Homes so that she would be safe and attend high school regularly.
Melanie has taken a great interest during her stay with us in helping others less fortunate. She regularly takes donations to those she knows in need on the street, whether it is a blanket to keep them warm, a sandwich or a teddy bear to make them smile. Even in her tough situation she is always looking out for others.
Melanie’s family has found housing in another town and will soon be moving there so they can live together, which is all Melanie ever wanted. She looks forward to living in her new home with her family and having a place to call her own. We will miss Melanie but take pride in helping her and her family stay together. We also know Melanie will go on to do great things to help others.
Kerri had a difficult childhood because of her family circumstances. At age 10, she lost her dad to drugs and alcohol, and her mom used regularly as well. Kerri was left acting as a parent to her three younger siblings by age 13. Soon after, the stress and demands of being an adult at such a young age began to take their toll, and she started to struggle in school and to experiment with drugs herself.
By age 16, she was missing a lot of school and had been arrested twice for drug related charges. She was taken into the custody of social services in Denver and was placed into an inpatient treatment center for what was, by this time, an addiction to drugs. After several placements and multiple stints at rehab, it began to settle in for Kerri that she needed to get her act together. At age 17, she checked herself into rehab and committed to getting off of drugs and getting back on track with school.
When Kerri came to Attention Homes, she had been sober for almost a year and had graduated high school. Her goal was to go to college and get a job, and Attention Homes was her first “community based” placement where those goals could become a reality. While Kerri was at Attention Homes, she was accepted into the University of Colorado’s class of 2015. She got a job working at a restaurant on the hill and was soon prepared to move into the dorms in late August. She also climbed a 14,000 foot mountain (Mt. Bierstadt) for the first time, made new friends in Boulder and at CU, and is working at a job that she says is “great”!